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1778. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. VII (1778-1779) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. VII (1778-1779).
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TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Valley Forge, 1 May, 1778.
I have had the honor to receive your despatches of the 27th Instant.
In compliance with the request of Congress, I shall immediately call upon the officers in the army to take the oath of allegiance and abjuration. This I should have done as soon as the resolution passed, had it not been for the state of the army at that time, and that there were some strong reasons, which made it expedient to defer the matter. My opinion upon the subject of a future provision for the officers hath been so fully, and I trust so necessarily and equitably urged, that I shall not add further respecting it, except my sincere wishes that the establishment was determined on. Nothing in my idea can be more just and I am certain there is nothing more essential. The present unsettled state of the army is hurtful in the extreme.
Since my letter of the 27th, I have received authentic information of the sailing of a very large number of transports from Philadelphia; two hundred, it is said. They went down the Delaware the beginning of the week, light and empty. I have not been able to learn any thing of their destination; nor can I form a conjecture upon the occasion, that is the least satisfactory.
With infinite pleasure I beg leave to congratulate Congress on the very important and interesting advices brought by the frigate Sensible. General McDougall and Mr. Deane were so obliging as to transmit me the outlines of the good tidings.1 As soon as Congress may think it expedient, I shall be happy to have an opportunity of announcing to the army, with the usual ceremony, such parts of the intelligence as may be proper, and sanctified by authority. I have mentioned the matter to such officers as I have seen; and I believe no event was ever received with a more heart-felt joy. I have the honor to be, &c.
P.S.—Just as I had finished my letter above, I received the honor of your favor of the 28th with the Resolutions & Packets alluded to, I will take measures for dispersing the printed Resolutions.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL HEATH.
Notwithstanding the immense advantages, which we shall derive from the acknowledgment of our independency by, and our late alliance with the court of France, yet much remains to be done to extricate ourselves entirely from our oppressors. Even taking for granted, that the enemy, from the situation of European affairs, cannot be further reinforced, their remaining strength, if collected and properly directed, is formidable. The Congress, sensible of this, have wisely determined not to relax in their preparations for war, and have earnestly recommended it to every State to complete their quotas of Continental troops, and to hold its militia ready for service.1 * * *
I had a letter a few days ago from the Board of War, in which they desire to know whether you had ever been able to any thing more towards the exchange between Brigadier-General Thompson and Brigadier-General Hamilton. If you cannot succeed in that, they desire you to feel the pulse of the two other brigadiers, for either of which we would willingly exchange General Thompson. The foreigners have thought themselves partially treated by General Howe, in regard to exchange, and if you were to propose the matter to the foreign brigadiers, and either of them should incline to it, perhaps General Howe would accede, rather than give umbrage. I am, &c.
P. S. As the balance of officers is much against us in the case of prisoners, and may long remain so, unless we can effect exchanges between ours with the enemy and those of General Burgoyne’s army, I must request that you will take occasion to inform the latter, on their application, or indeed without it, that we shall readily consent on our part to their releasement for our officers of the same rank. If there should be any number, who wish this to take place, they had better write at the same time to General Howe, or commanding officer at Philadelphia; and you will send me a list of their rank and names, that a like number, who have been longest in confinement, may be directed in return, if their request is complied with.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL McDOUGALL.
Head Quarters,Valley Forge,
I have wrote pressingly to General Heath and General Putnam to forward the recruits of Massachusetts and Connecticut to the North River, with all possible despatch. If they arrive there during the continuance of your command, you will be pleased, agreeable to former orders, to send on those belonging to the regiments that are here immediately.
I very much fear that we, taking it for granted, that we have nothing more to do, because France has acknowledged our independency and formed an alliance with us, shall relapse into a state of supineness and perfect security. I think it more than probable, from the situation of affairs in Europe, that the enemy will receive no considerable if any reinforcements. But suppose they should not, their remaining force, if well directed, is far from being contemptible. In the desperate state of British affairs, it is worth a desperate attempt to extricate themselves; and a blow at our main army, if successful, would have a wonderful effect upon the minds of a number of people, still wishing to embrace the present terms, or indeed any terms offered by Great Britain. It behoves us therefore to make ourselves as respectable as possible, that, if the enemy continue in their detached state, we endeavor to destroy them by piecemeal; and if, on the contrary, they collect, they may not fall heavily upon us in some quarter. I cannot help thinking, from a late uncommon movement of their shipping, that they have something of this kind in view. Near two hundred sail of light transports have gone down the Delaware within a week past.1 New York is too valuable to be evacuated but upon the last extremity, and I therefore incline to think that the move, if any, will be from Rhode Island. If the troops should be brought from thence to New York, we must provide for the posts upon the North River, in proportion to the addition to the strength of the enemy; if to Philadelphia, we must draw down our force accordingly. For these reasons it is my wish to see the eastern recruits brought on towards the North River as quickly as possible. If there should be no alteration in the position of the enemy, you will, as before mentioned, send on those intended for the regiments here without loss of time. If there should be a move, we must alter our plan, according to circumstances. I am, &c.1
TO GENERAL SCHUYLER.
I have been duly favored with your letters of the 16th and 26th of last month, with their enclosures. I am sorry to observe that the disposition of the Indian Nations is not generally so favorable, as could be wished; but it is not to be wondered at, when we consider the advantages the enemy possess over us, in the means of supplying their wants, and rewarding their friendship. I doubt not Congress, as far as may be practicable, will direct the measures recommended by the Board of Commissioners for cultivating their attachment, to be carried into effect, or any others that may appear proper, for promoting that end. I hope, that if their minds could be impressed with a conviction of the true state of affairs between France and this country, and of the genuineness of the Treaties lately concluded, it would have a very happy influence,—The Oneidas and Tuscaroras have a particular claim to attention and kindness, for their perseverance and fidelity.
Mr. Toussard, with a party of Indians, arrived in camp yesterday. I learn by him, that Lt. Col. Gouvion was shortly to set out with another party. If he has not yet begun his journey, when this gets to hand, I should wish the party to be stopped; or, if they should be on the way and not far advanced, and it can be done without occasioning disgust, I should be glad they might return home. When my application was made for a body of Indians to go in this army, our prospects were very different from what they now are. It was expected that the campaign would have been opened by the enemy much earlier than it, in all probability, will, if they do make another campaign in America, which is far from being certain, in the present posture, of European affairs. All appearances at this time are opposed to the supposition of any speedy offensive movement on their part; and if they remain on the defensive, protected by their works, there will be very little of that kind of service in which the Indians are capable of being useful. To bring them such a distance, while there is likely to be scarcely any employment suited to their active and desultory genius could answer no valuable purpose, but would be productive of needless expense, and might perhaps have a tendency to put them out of humor. As there seemed too, to be some apprehensions among them for their own security, and rather a reluctance to leave their homes, they will possibly not be displeased to find the call for their services has ceased.
I leave it to your judgment to assign such reasons as you shall deem best calculated for the change and satisfy them. I should think however a good way might be, to inform them, with proper comments, of the Treaties, we have entered into, and that in consequence of them, affairs have taken such a turn, as to make it unnecessary to give them the trouble, at this time of coming to our assistance. That we wish them, for the present, to continue peaceably at home, and only be in readiness to cooperate with us on any future occasion, that may present itself for advancing our mutual interest. They may be told, that we hope soon to be able to expel our enemies and to give them effectual protection, against all those from whom they themselves have anything to dread. These you will consider merely as hints, and make such use of them as you shall judge expedient.
As I have requested the Marquis to instruct M. Gouvion, with a message from him to them, expressive of ideas similar to those here suggested, he will inclose his letter for M. Gouvion open to you, directing him nevertheless to consult you and make his declarations correspond with yours. With respect to such Indians as may happen to be on their way to us, though under present circumstances I had much rather dispense with their attendance; yet, if you conceive they cannot be sent back without offending them, they must be suffered to proceed.
Congress have not yet sent me their final instructions relative to your trial: so soon as they do, you may depend, I shall immediately give you notice, and transmit, agreeable to your desire, a copy of the charges they exhibit.
You will without doubt have seen such particulars of our new alliance, as have been made public. There is every reason to believe a war has been some time since declared between France and England. The late Philadelphia papers are full of it, one of them contains a message from the Court of France, to that of Britain, announcing the alliance with America, in terms of banter and contempt, that must be more galling, than anything she has ever before experienced. The King pronounces it to be a high and unprovoked insult. The two houses of parliament re-echo his sentiments and assure him of their most zealous support, in any measures he may find necessary towards resenting the injury. The English ambassador is recalled from France, and the French ambassador from England. Every appearance indicates an instant war. Another Phil. paper of the 13th, among several other articles of a similar complexion, mentions that the Directors of the Bank had waited upon Lord North to know if a war would take place so soon as was expected: to which he replied, it was inevitable. I am, &c.1
TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE.
Camp, 17 May, 1778.
I received yesterday your favor of the 15th instant, enclosing a paper subscribed by sundry officers of General Woodford’s brigade, setting forth the reasons for not taking the oath of abjuration, allegiance, and office; and I thank you much for the cautious delicacy used in communicating the matter to me. As every oath should be a free act of the mind, founded on the conviction of the party of its propriety, I would not wish, in any instance, that there should be the least degree of compulsion exercised; or to interpose my opinion, in order to induce any to make it, of whom it is required. The gentlemen, therefore, who signed the paper, will use their own discretion in the matter, and swear or not swear, as their conscience and feelings dictate.
At the same time, I cannot but consider it as a circumstance of some singularity, that the scruples against the oath should be peculiar to the officers of one brigade, and so very extensive. The oath in itself is not new. It is substantially the same with that required in all governments, and therefore does not imply any indignity; and it is perfectly consistent with the professions, actions, and implied engagements of every officer. The objection, founded on the supposed unsettled rank of the officers, is of no validity, (rank being only mentioned as a further designation of the party swearing;) nor can it be seriously thought, that the oath is either intended, or can prevent, their being promoted, or their resignations.
The fourth objection, stated by the gentlemen, serves as a key to their scruples; and I would willingly persuade myself, that their own reflections will point out to them the impropriety of the whole proceeding, and not suffer them to be betrayed in future into a similar conduct. I regard them all, and cannot but regret, that they were ever engaged in the measure. I am certain they will regret it themselves. Sure I am, they ought. I am, my dear Marquis, your affectionate friend and servant.1
TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE.
The detachment under your command, with which you will immediately march towards the enemy’s lines, is designed to answer the following purposes; namely, to be a security to this camp and a cover to the country between the Delaware and the Schuylkill, to interrupt the communication with Philadelphia, to obstruct the incursions of the enemy’s parties, and to obtain intelligence of their motions and designs. This last is a matter of very interesting moment, and ought to claim your particular attention. You will endeavor to procure trusty and intelligent spies, who will advise you faithfully of whatever may be passing in the city, and you will without delay communicate to me every piece of material information you obtain.
A variety of concurring accounts make it probable, that the enemy are preparing to evacuate Philadelphia. This is a point, which it is of the utmost importance to ascertain; and, if possible, the place of their future destination. Should you be able to gain certain intelligence of the time of their intended embarkation, so that you may be able to take advantage of it, and fall upon the rear of the enemy in the act of withdrawing, it will be a very desirable event. But this will be a matter of no small difficulty, and will require the greatest caution and prudence in the execution. Any deception or precipitation may be attended with the most disastrous consequences.
You will remember, that your detachment is a very valuable one, and that any accident happening to it would be a very severe blow to this army. You will therefore use every possible precaution for its security, and to guard against a surprise. No attempt should be made, nor any thing risked, without the greatest prospect of success, and with every reasonable advantage on your side. I shall not point out any precise position to you; but shall leave it to your discretion to take such posts occasionally, as shall appear to you best adapted to the purposes of your detachment. In general, I would observe, that a stationary post is unadvisable, as it gives the enemy an opportunity of knowing your situation, and concerting plans successfully against you. In case of any offensive movement against this army, you will keep yourself in such a state as to have an easy communication with it, and at the same time harass the enemy’s advance.
Our parties of horse and foot between the rivers are to be under your command, and to form part of your detachment. As great complaints have been made of the disorderly conduct of the parties, which have been sent towards the enemy’s lines, it is expected that you will be very attentive in preventing abuses of the like nature, and will inquire how far complaints already made are founded in justice.
Given under my hand, at Head-Quarters, this 18th day of May, 1778.
TO GOUVERNEUR MORRIS, IN CONGRESS.
Valley Forge, 18 May, 1778.
My Dear Sir,
Your favor of the 15th instant gave me singular pleasure. I thank you for the agreeable intelligence it contains, which, though not equal to my wishes, exceeded my expectations; and is to be lamented only for the delay,1 as the evils consequent of it will soon, as I have often foretold, be manifested in the moving state of the army, if the departments of the quartermaster and commissary will enable us to stir and keep pace with the enemy, who, from every account, are busy in preparing for their departure from Philadelphia; whether for the West Indies, a rendezvous at New York to prepare for their voyage, or for some other expedition, time only can discover. The sooner, however, the regimental regulations and other arrangements are set about, the sooner they will be finished; and for God’s sake, my dear Morris, let me recommend it to you to urge the absolute necessity of this measure with all your might.
As the council held at this camp was by order of Congress, and the members constituting it pointed out by them, it was determined, out of respect to that body, to treat the new members with civility. Indeed, the wish of all here, that no private differences should interrupt the harmony, which is so necessary in public councils, had no small share in the amity that appeared. Contrary, I own, to my expectation, the same sentiments, respecting the measures to be pursued, pervaded the whole. Our resolutions of course were unanimous.
I was not a little surprised to find a certain gentleman, who, some time ago, (when a cloud of darkness hung heavy over us, and our affairs looked gloomy,) was desirous of resigning, now stepping forward in the line of the army. But if he can reconcile such conduct to his own feelings, as an officer and a man of honor, and Congress hath no objection to his leaving his seat in another department, I have nothing personally to oppose to it.1 Yet I must think, that gentleman’s stepping in and out, as the sun happens to beam forth or obscure, is not quite the thing, nor quite just, with respect to those officers, who take ye bitter with the sweet.
I am told that Conway, (from whom I have received another impertinent letter, dated the 23d ultimo, demanding the command of a division of the Continental army,) is, through the medium of his friends, soliciting this command again. Can this be? And, if so, will it be granted?2
I am, very sincerely and affectionately, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Valley Forge, 18 May, 1778.
I have been honored with your two favors of the 11 & 15 Instant, with the several papers alluded to: the former by Monsr. Jemat—the latter by Express yesterday.
Colo. Johnson set out on Saturday afternoon to wait on Congress upon the subject of his appointment and I presume will be at York to-day.
I shall announce the resolution of the 15th to the army, and would flatter myself it will quiet in a great measure the uneasinesses, which have been so extremely distressing, and prevent resignations, which had proceeded, and were likely to be at such a height, as to destroy our whole military system. It has experienced no inconsiderable shock, particularly in the line of some States, from the loss of several very valuable officers.
The letter and brevet for Colonel Allen I will transmit by the first opportunity. He left camp eight days ago.1 From a variety of concurring circumstances, and the uniform report of persons, who have left Philadelphia within four days past, it would appear that the enemy mean to evacuate the city. It is said they have already embarked a part of their heavy cannon and baggage, and that transports are fitted and fitting for their horse, and taking in hay. The accounts further add, that there has been a press for some nights in the city, and several men obtained in this way, and carried aboard ship; also that there had been an increased number of vendues. These circumstances all indicate an evacuation; but I have not been able to learn the objects of their future operations. I wrote to General Gates yesterday upon the subject, that he may be prepared in the best manner the situation of things will admit, in case they should be destined for the North River, and desired him to retain for the present all the eastern recruits intended for this army.
The quartermaster-general and commissary of provisions are directed to use every possible exertion for putting the affairs of their departments in a train to facilitate a movement, in case it should be necessary. But such have been the derangements and disorders in them, that we must be greatly embarrassed for a considerable time yet.
A valuable detachment, under the command of the Marquis de Lafayette, marched this morning, which is intended to move between the Delaware and the Schuylkill, for restraining the enemy’s parties procuring intelligence, and to act as circumstances may require.
I cannot help feeling for the prisoners in possession of the enemy. If they evacuate Philadelphia, those unhappy men will be dragged away with them, and perhaps to a more miserable confinement. But, supposing their future treatment should not be worse, or even that it should be more comfortable than their past, the idea of being removed farther from their friends, and farther from relief, must distress them to the last degree. I have the honor, &c.
P. S.—I would take the liberty to mention, that I think the Arms & Cloathing expected from France, should be brought forward without a moment’s delay after they arrive. The impolicy of suffering them ever to remain in places accessible to shipping out of the question, our distress for both is amazingly great. We have many men now without Firelocks & many coming in, in the same predicament, and Half the Army are without shirts.
Our condition for want of the latter & Blankets is quite painful—of the former very distressing. The Doctors attribute in a great degree the loss of Hundreds of lives to the scarcity of cloathing, and I am certain Hundreds have deserted from the same cause.1
TO RICHARD HENRY LEE.
Valley Forge, 25 May, 1778.
If any thing of greater moment had occurred, than declaring that every word contained in the pamphlet, which you were obliging enough to send me, was spurious, I should not have suffered your favor of the 6th instant to remain so long unacknowledged. These letters are written with a great deal of art. The intermixture of so many family circumstances (which, by the by, want foundation in truth) gives an air of plausibility, which renders the villainy greater; as the whole is a contrivance to answer the most diabolical purposes. Who the author of them is, I know not. From information, or acquaintance, he must have had some knowledge of the component parts of my family; but he has most egregiously mistaken facts in several instances. The design of his labors is as clear as the sun in its meridian brightness.
The favorable issue of our negotiation with France is matter for heartfelt joy, big with important events, and it must, I should think, chalk out a plain and easy road to independence. From this I hope we shall not depart, from a mistaken opinion, that the great work is already finished; nor, to finish it, adopt measures of precipitation. Great Britain, since the declaration of the King of France through the Marquis de Noailles, has no choice but war. Under their present circumstances, how they will conduct it, is a matter not so easily understood, as all their ways have been ways of darkness. That they will be under a necessity of giving up the continent, or their islands, seems obvious to me, if the accounts we have received of the French force in the West Indies be true. Halifax and Canada will, I presume, be strengthened; and, if they can afford a garrison sufficient, they may attempt to hold New York, unless every idea of subjugating America is given up, in which case their whole resentment will be levelled at France.
The enemy are making every preparation, and seem to be upon the point of leaving Philadelphia. In my own judgment, and from many corresponding circumstances, I am convinced they are bound to New York; whether by land or water, whether as a place of rendezvous, or to operate on North River, is not so clear. Our situation here, on account of the sick and stores, is embarrassing, as I dare not detach largely to harass the enemy, in case of a land movement through the Jerseys, before they have actually crossed the Delaware; and then it will be too late, as their distance to South Amboy will be much less than ours, and nothing to obstruct them. To this may be added the advantage of a day’s march, which they must gain of us. Were it not for the number of our sick (upwards of three thousand in camp), and the securing of our stores, which are covered by our present position and strength, I could take such a post in Jersey, as would make their passage through that State very difficult and dangerous to them. But the impracticability of doing this, without exposing this camp to insult and injury is well known to them; and some part of their conduct justifies a report, that, at all events, they will not aim a blow at this army before they go off.
I observe what you say respecting the recruits, or rather drafts, from Virginia. I was never called upon by the State for officers, or directed by Congress to send any to aid in the business; but, thinking such a measure might be necessary, I ordered the officers of the disbanded regiments, and such as had gone to Virginia on furlough, to call upon and receive the governor’s orders, with respect to the marching of them to camp. That something has been wrong in conducting the drafts, and assembling the men, admits of no doubt; for, out of the fifteen hundred ordered last fall, and the two thousand this spring, we have received only twelve hundred and forty-two, which is such a deficiency, that I have made a representation thereof to the State. I am, &c.
TO JOHN PARKE CUSTIS.
Valley Forge, 26 May, 1778.
Your Letter of the 11th Inst. with a Deed to Mr. Henry came safe by Mr. Lund Washington—In lieu of the latter, I have executed a Deed to you, conveying all the right title and Interest which I, or any person claiming by, from, or under me can have to the Land.—More than this cannot be expected, as I purchased the Land at your own desire; by the advice of your friends; and without intending, or receiving, the smallest benefit therefrom, after having the title fully investigated by Mr. Wythe. For me therefore to give a general warrantee of the Land to Mr. Henry, thereby subjecting my Estate for the value of it, is what I cannot entertain a thought of, altho I believe there is not the smallest doubt of the goodness of the Title.—Mr. Henry will, I presume, require a general warrantee; it is for this purpose therefore I made the Deed to you, & Black will be responsible to you; as to myself, as I only acted the part of a friend & Trustee in the business, I do not mean to be further engaged in the matter than to convey the legal right which is in me. If you had got a Deed drawn for the other Land (in King William) the whole might have been executed at the same time, and the sooner you do it the better—let it be drawn by the one now sent.—I have got the most likely evidences I could, but unless there has been some alteration in our Laws, if it is proved in Court any time within two years it will do, as I am out of the State at present.
The reasons which you assign for selling your Lotts in Williamsburg & James City, and your Lands in Hanovr. & New Kent (where Tr[Editor: gap in text] lives) may be good if you can get an adequate price for them and the money is immediately vested in the funds, or laid out in other lands; but if this is not done be assured, it will melt like snow before a hot sun, and you will be able to give as little acct. of the going of it; to which I may add, as I did upon a former occasion, that Lands are permanent—rising fast in value—and will be very dear when our Independancy is established, and the Importance of America better known.—To these, one observation more, may not be unworthy of attention, which is, that in proportion to the brightness of our prospects, and the heaviness of our taxes, the rage for getting quit of, and realizing paper money must cease, and Men & measures will resume a more reasonable tone again; which, if it has already taken place, shews that your scheme will, in part, prove abortive.—With respect to your purchase of Mr. Robt. Alexander’s Land, I can only say that the price you have offered for it is a very great one but as you want it to live at—as it answers your’s & Nelly’s views—and is a pleasant seat & capable of improvement I do not think the price ought to be a capital object with you, but I am pretty sure that you and Alexander will never agree; for he is so much afraid of cheating himself that if you were to offer him five thousand pounds more than he ever expected to get for his Land the dread of injuring himself or hope of getting more, would cause him first to hesitate & then refuse; which leads me to think that the increasing of your offer, if you were disposed to do so would answer no valuable end, nor bring you one whit nearer the mark.
The Public papers will convey all the news of this Quarter to you except that Genl. Howe has actually sailed for England, & that the Enemy in Philia. appear to be upon the point of evacuating the City for New York.1 This has made such a change in the Language & visages of the Tories of that place, that they are scarce known to be ye same Men. A few great offenders excepted, the disaffected are now endeavoring to make peace with the Country, to which they have been advised by the Enemy. At the same time it is left optional with them to follow the Army.
I am, &c.
TO GOUVERNEUR MORRIS.
Valley Forge, 29th May, 1778.
I thank you for your favors of the 21st & 23d Inst—both of which have come to my hand since my last to you. Had such a chapter as you speak of been written to the rulers of mankind it would I am persuaded, have been as unavailing as many others upon subjects of equal importance—We may lament that things are not consonant with our wishes, but cannot change the nature of Men, and yet those who are distressed by the folly and perverseness of it, cannot help complaining, as I would do on the old score of regulation and arrangement, if I thought any good would come of it1 :
It appears to me that British politics are aground, & that administration is reduced to the alternative (if war is declared, which I cannot doubt) of relinquishing all pretensions to conquest in America, or must give up her Islands. Which she will choose I cannot say; which she ought to do, is evident, but how far obstinacy, revenge & villainy, may enduce them to persevere, I shall not undertake to determine.—That the enemy in Philadelphia are bound to New York, I have no doubt—whether as a place of rendezvous, or to facilitate any operations up the North River, time, & less of it than you have taken to arrange the business of this army, will unfold—whether they will go thence by land or water, or whether they may not pay their compliments to us before they go, is not yet certain—my own opinion is that they will march the flower of their army, un-incumbered with baggage through the Jerseys, & it is much to be lamented that our strength, the number & situation of our sick, & stores, will not allow us to make a larger detachment (previous to their move) than a brigade in aid of the militia of that State; but were we to do this, if they had no serious thoughts before of visiting this army, a large detachment from it, out of recalling distance, might enduce a measure of this kind, & expose upwards of three thousand sick which we have not conveniency to remove, to insult perhaps to a capital stroke & loss—
If I could spare a brigade from this army for Rhode Island, I should not hesitate a moment in my choice of the person you have mentioned1 but Congress most assuredly knew that since McIntosh has left us2 No. Carolina wants one for the Troops of that State—Virginia two (as Muhlenburg only waits the arrival of a successor)—Maryland one—Pennsylvania (till Hand arrives) one—Massachusetts two—& these exclusive of what were thought necessary for the light troops (if any were ever to be formed). What am I to do with Putnam? If Congress mean to lay him aside decently, I wish they would devise the mode.—He wanted some time ago to visit his family; I gave him leave, & requested him to superintend the forwarding of the Connecticut recruits—This service he says is at an end, & is now applying for orders.—If he comes to this army he must be in high command (being next in rank to Lee)—if he goes to the North River he must command Gates, or serve under a junior officer—The sooner these embarrassments could be removed the better—If they are not to be removed, I wish to know it, that I may govern myself accordingly; indecision & suspense in the military line, are hurtful in the extreme.
The Marquis by depending on the militia to patroll the roads on his left, had very near been caught in a snare—in fact he was in it—but by his own dexterity or the enemy’s want of it, he disengaged himself in a very soldierlike manner, & by an orderly & well conducted retreat got out, losing three men killed & a like number taken only.—Of the enemy about the same number were taken three or four times as many killed & wounded, besides those who died of the fatigue & some of their cavalry disabled—Upon the whole the Marquis came handsomely off, and the enemy returned disappointed & disgraced—loading poor Grant with obliquy for his conduct on the occasion; sneeringly asking, how 5000 men were to go through the Continent when 2500 only, shifted their ground in his view, & looked at him at the head of six or seven thousand with good countenances.
I had wrote this far when your favor begun on the 27th & ended on the 28th came to hand—With respect to appointments, promotions, etc. I have not a word more to say—My earnest wish is that something, I do not care what, may be fixed & the regulations completed. It is a lamentable prospect to a man who has seen, and felt as many inconveniences as I have from the unsettled & disordered condition of the Army, to perceive that we are again to be plunged into a moving state (after near six months repose) before the intended regulations are made & the officers informed who are, & who are not, to be continued in service under the new establishment.
Your idea of levying contributions on the city of Philadelphia widely differs from mine, & the spirit of the proclamation1 of Congress to each State—that I had never entertained a single thought of the kind. A measure of this sort, in my judgment would not only be inconsistent with sound policy, but would be looked upon as on arbitrary stretch of military power—inflame the country as well as city, & lay the foundation of much evil. If Congress are in the same sentiments with you I could wish to have them clearly & explicitly expressed & without a moment’s loss of time, as, between you & I, I have no idea of marching more than a small detachment to the city, to prevent plundering and disorder till some kind of civil government can be established; in effecting which no time should be lost by this state, and to secure any public stores which may be left, and aid the quarter-master, &c. in providing for the Army.1
Your letter to General Clinton shall go under cover of one I had just written & was about to dispatch on other matters.
Very sincerely I remain, &c.2
TO HENRY LAURENS.
Valley Forge, 29 May, 1778.
Your polite favor of the 5th instant, I duly received, and thank you much for the information contained in it. At the same time, I earnestly request that you will indulge me with an excuse for not answering it before. A constant crowd of business, and the intervention of a variety of circumstances, have been the cause, and not an inattention to the rules of civility or to those of friendship.
Your letter gave me the first intimation of the disagreement between our commissioners. The event is disagreeable and painful; and, unless they can bring themselves to harmonize, their proceedings will not probably consult the public interest, so well as they otherwise might. It is certain, that they will not have that degree of respect, either at home or abroad. Their embassy is a most interesting one, and may involve consequences which will lead, in a small degree, to the happiness or misery of their country. I hope reflection and a due consideration will set them right.1
The act of the 22d of April will certainly require the commissioners,2 if they come at all, to be vested with much more ample powers than Lord North’s bills professed, or their mission wiil be ridiculously mortifying. Indeed men, who would come out under the powers expressed in the bills, after all that has passed, deserve to be mortified in the extreme. I am happy the report and consequent resolution were previous to the treaty and alliance with France being known. The Parliament have been so much parties to this war, and to all the proceedings respecting it, that it would seem the Crown itself has no authority, either to continue or to end it, or to do any thing else, without their express concurrence.
I sincerely wish the military arrangement to be completed. The delay is attended with great inconvenience and injury. While it remains open, our whole system cannot but be imperfect. I know that Congress have a variety of important matters to call their attention; but, I assure you, there are few if any that are more interesting than what this is. The question of half-pay being decided, I shall not trouble you with a further discussion of the subject. It must be granted, however, that, in the situation of our affairs, the measure or something substantially the same had become necessary. Nor can I, after balancing in my mind and giving the subject the fairest consideration I am capable of, esteem it unjust. I assure you, Sir, however we may have differed in sentiment on this point, I am fully convinced that the strictest candor forms a part of your character, and request you to believe, that I am, with great attachment and esteem, &c.1
P.S. The letter for Mr. Pettit was sent to him in a day or two after it came to hand. I most sincerely wish, that Congress would lay the charge, and order trial of the major-generals in disgrace. St. Clair is exceedingly uneasy and distressed at the delay; and with pain I add, that the proceeding, or more properly not proceeding, in this matter, is looked upon as cruel and oppressive.
TO LANDON CARTER.
Valley Forge, 30 May, 1778.
My dear Sir,
Your favors of the 10th of March (ended the 20th) and 7th inst. came safe to hand after a good deal of delay.
I thank you much for your kind and affectionate remembrance and mention of me, and for that solicitude for my welfare, which breathes through the whole of your letters. Were I not warm in my acknowledgments for your distinguished regard, I should feel that sense of ingratitude, which I hope will never constitute a part of my character, nor find a place in my bosom. My friends therefore may believe me sincere in my professions of attachment to them, whilst Providence has a joint claim to my humble and grateful thanks, for its protection and direction of me, through the many difficult and intricate scenes, which this contest hath produced; and for the constant interposition in our behalf, when the clouds were heaviest and seemed ready to burst upon us.
To paint the distresses and perilous situation of this army in the course of last winter, for want of cloaths, provisions, and almost every other necessary, essential to the well-being, (I may say existence,) of an army, would require more time and an abler pen than mine; nor, since our prospects have so miraculously brightened, shall I attempt it, or even bear it in remembrance, further than as a memento of what is due to the great Author of all the care and good, that have been extended in relieving us in difficulties and distress.
The accounts which you had received of the accession of Canada to the Union were premature. It is a measure much to be wished, and I believe would not be displeasing to the body of that people; but, while Carleton remains among them, with three or four thousand regular troops, they dare not avow their sentiments, (if they really are favorable,) without a strong support. Your ideas of its importance to our political union coincide exactly with mine. If that country is not with us, it will, from its proximity to the eastern States, its intercourse and connexion with the numerous tribes of western Indians, its communion with them by water and other local advantages, be at least a troublesome if not a dangerous neighbor to us; and ought, at all events, to be in the same interests and politics, of the other States.
If all the counties in Virginia had followed the example of yours, it would have been a fortunate circumstance for this army; but instead of fifteen hundred men, under the first draft, and two thousand from the latter, we have by an accurate return made me four days ago received only twelve hundred and forty-two in the whole. From hence, unless you can conceive our country possessed of less virtue, or less knowledge in the principles of government than other States, you may account for the multitude of men, which undoubtedly you have heard our army consisted of, and consequently for many things, which, without such a key, would seem mysterious.
With great truth I think I can assure you, that the information you received from a gentleman at Sabine Hall, respecting a disposition in the northern officers to see me superseded in my command by General G—s is without the least foundation. I have very sufficient reasons to think, that no officers in the army are more attached to me, than those from the northward, and of those, none more so than the gentlemen, who were under the immediate command of G—s last campaign. That there was a scheme of this sort on foot, last fall, admits of no doubt; but it originated in another quarter; with three men,1 who wanted to aggrandize themselves; but finding no support, on the contrary, that their conduct and views, when seen into, were likely to undergo severe reprehension, they slunk back, disavowed the measure, and professed themselves my warmest admirers. Thus stands the matter at present. Whether any members of Congress were privy to this scheme, and inclined to aid and abet it, I shall not take upon me to say; but am well informed, that no whisper of the kind was ever heard in Congress.
The draughts of bills as mentioned by you, and which have since passed into acts of British legislation, are so strongly marked with folly and villany, that one can scarce tell which predominates, or how to be surprised at any act of a British minister. This last trite performance of Master North’s is neither more nor less than an insult to common sense, and shows to what extremity of folly wicked men in a bad cause are sometimes driven; for this rude Boreas, who was to bring America to his feet, knew at the time of draughting these bills, or had good reason to believe, that a treaty had actually been signed between the court of France and the United States. By what rule of common sense, then, he could expect that such an undisguised artifice would go down in America I cannot conceive. But, thanks to Heaven, the tables are turned; and we, I hope, shall have our independence secured, in its fullest extent, without cringing to this Son of Thunder, who I am persuaded will find abundant work for his troops elsewhere; on which happy prospect I sincerely congratulate you and every friend to American liberty.
The enemy seem to be upon the point of evacuating Philadelphia—and I am persuaded are going to New York—whether as a place of rendezvous of their whole force, for a general imbarkation, or to operate up the North River, or to act from circumstances is not quite so clear. My own opinion is, that they must either give up the Continent or the Islands; which they will do, is [not] clear; and yet, I think, they will endeavor to retain New York, if they can by any means spare troops enough to garrison it. Reinforcements will, undoubtedly, be sent to Canada, Nova Scotia, &c.; and I presume must go from their army in America, as I trust full employment will be found for their subscription, and other Troops in England and Ireland. Equally uncertain is it, whether the Enemy will move from Philadelphia by Land or Water. I am inclined to think the former, and lament that the number of our sick (under inoculation, &c.), the situation of our stores, and other matters, will not allow me to make a large detachment from this army till the enemy have actually crossed the Delaware and began their march for South Amboy,—then it will be too late; so that we must give up the idea of harassing them much in their march through the Jerseys, or attempt it at the hazard of this Camp, and the stores which are covered by the army that lays in it, if we should divide our forces, or remove it wholly, which by the by, circumstanced as the Quartermaster’s department is, is impracticable.1
I am sorry it is not in my power to furnish you with the letter required, which, (with many others,) was written to show, that I was an enemy to independence, and with a view to create distrust and jealousy. I never had but one of them, and that I sent to Mrs. Washington, to let her see what obliging folks there were in the world. As a sample of it, I enclose you another letter, written for me to Mr. Custis, of the same tenor, and which I happen to have by me. It is no easy matter to decide, whether the villany or artifice of these letters is greatest. They were written by a person, who had some knowledge or information of the component parts of my family, and yet so deficient in circumstances and facts, as to run into egregious misrepresentations of both.
I have spun out a long letter, and send it to you in a very slovenly manner; but, not having time to give it with more fairness, and flattering myself into a belief, that you had rather receive it in this dress than not at all, I shall make no other apology for the interlineations and scratches you will find in it, than you will please to allow my hurried situation. I am, dear Sir, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL LEE.
Poor’s, Varnum’s, and Huntington’s brigades are to march in one division under your command to the North River. The quartermaster-general will give you the route, encampment, and halting-days, to which you will conform as strictly as possible, to prevent interfering with other troops, and that I may know precisely your situation on every day. Leave as few sick and lame on the road as possible. Such as are absolutely incapable of marching with you are to be committed to the care of proper officers, with directions to follow as fast as their condition will allow.
Be strict in your discipline, suffer no rambling, keep the men in their ranks and the officers with their divisions, avoid pressing horses as much as possible, and punish severely every officer or soldier, who shall presume to press without proper authority. Prohibit the burning of fences. In a word, you are to protect the persons and property of the inhabitants from every kind of insult and abuse.
Begin your march at four o’clock in the morning at latest, that it may be over before the heat of the day, and that the soldiers may have time to cook, refresh, and prepare for the ensuing day. Given at Head Quarters this 30th day of May, 1778.
P. S. June 18th. The foregoing instructions may serve you for general directions, but circumstances having varied since they were written, you are to halt on the first strong ground after passing the Delaware at Coryell’s Ferry, till further orders, unless you should receive authentic intelligence, that the enemy have proceeded by a direct route to South Amboy (or still lower). In this case you will continue your march to the North River, agreeably to former orders, and by the route already given you. If my memory does not deceive me, there is an advantageous spot of ground at the ferry to the right of the road leading from the water.
TO SIR HENRY CLINTON.
Head-Quarters, 31 May, 1778.
I had the honor last night to receive your favor of the 30th instant. I am sorry that I cannot see the necessity of the interview you propose. If you, or Lord Howe, have any dispatches for Congress, and think fit to transmit them to my care, they shall be forwarded by the earliest opportunity. If you have any of a military nature, for me, for none other can come properly under my consideration, I wish them to be communicated in writing, and in the usual way. This will prevent any trouble on part of Colonel Paterson, and must answer, I should suppose, all the purpose you may have in view. I have the honor to be, Sir, &c.1
THOUGHTS UPON A PLAN OF OPERATIONS FOR THE CAMPAIGN OF 1778.1
In our present situation, and under our present prospects, there appears to be but one of three things that we either can do, or ought to attempt—First, by a collected force, to aim at the destruction of the Enemy in Philadelphia.—Secondly, by dividing it to attempt something against New York whilst Troops are left to cover this Country—& thirdly, by doing neither, lay quiet in a secure Camp and endeavor by every possible means to train and discipline our Army; thereby making our numbers (tho’ small) as formidable as possible.—The first is, undoubtedly, the most desirable object, if within the reach of possibility—the second, is also an important one, if practicable upon rational grounds—the third, we certainly have in our power to accomplish, if it is advisable.
Each of them deserves mature consideration, & should be placed in every point of light, that human wisdom can view them.—The two first requires the aid of Militia—will be attended with considerable expence—great waste of military stores, and arms—and will call for great supplies of Provisions; which, probably, are not within our reach,—the third would be giving the Enemy time to receive their reinforcements, spread their baneful influence more extensively—and be a means of disgusting our own People by our apparent inactivity—but to judge accurately of points of this magnitude, let each case be considered seperately, and the advantages, & disadvantages, with the number of men necessary for their execution, be fairly stated and canvassed, without having much regard to popular opinion.
By the first of June we may, I should suppose, count upon 17,000 Continental Troops fit for duty, in this State, Including those upon the North River, and at Albany; & I think we shall not over rate the Enemy in Philadelphia if we place them at 10,000 exclusive of Marines & Seamen.—How many men, then, and what measures, are necessary, to attempt any thing with a prospect of success against this number of Troops on that City? are questions that naturally lead me into a consideration of the
Out of the aforesaid number of 17,000 Continental Troops, not less than two thousand, I should suppose even with the aid of militia can maintain our Posts and Forts on the North River, and secure the Important Communication with the Eastern States; from whence, most of our supplies must come—this reduces the number to 15,000; and two methods of attack presenting themselves for consideration, to wit, by regular approaches, and Blockade, I will make a few observations on each—
The attack by regular approaches simply, & unconnected with a Blockade, would require the least number of Men, because they would be more compact, and their operations more confined; but even here, not less I shd think than 20,000 Men (which will be a call upon the Militia for 5000) would be sufficient to afford Detachments, carry on the Works, and resist a Sortie of the Enemy’s whole force.—In case of good behavior in the Troops on both sides (& we have little room to doubt it on theirs) what time will it probably take to carry the Lines?—What expence of Ammunition? What will our probable loss be? and what shall we gain by it, their retreat being open, easy, and secure by water and their Stores removed.—A Quantity of Goods might be found there, belonging to Individuals, whose property would deserve confiscation, and that would be all, except the honor of driving them from the City.
To attempt to reduce the City, or rather Troops in it, by a Blockade, it is indispensably necessary to possess Billingsport, with Troops sufficient to hold it against any number not much short of the Enemy’s whole force; for which reason, I should think much less than 5000 men at the Fort, and in the Jerseys, wd. not Answer the purpose of holding the place, and cutting off their communication with that shore—Another strong body should be in the neighborhood of Derby; as nearly opposite to Billingsport as possible, and strongly Fortified—2500 or three thousand may be sufficient for this Post after it is fortified, because it could be supported from the main body. These two Posts should at all events stop the Passage of ships; or the end of taking them would not, by any means be answered.—18,000 men might then lay in Front of the Enemy’s Lines, between the two Rivers, and secure themselves in Lines, or by Redoubts, and act as circumstances may dictate—A Bridge of communication to be thrown over the Schuylkill, at the most convenient place to this position—and the Galleys to take post as low in the Delaware, and as much upon the left Flank of this position, as Possible.—A number of Boats in their Rear for the purpose of a speedy transportation of Troops across that River if need be—Posts thus taken, & held, would, in time, starve the Town; or open a door to some other mode of attack, which might prove successful, and more expeditious.—This plan at the lowest computation, requires (in aid of the 15,000 Continental Troops) Ten, or 11,000 Militia.
To carry this into execution, there must be a separation of our Force, and an aid of Militia—Not less than five or six thousand Troops should go from this army to join those on the North River; & act in concert with the Militia—as the success of this enterprise would depend in a great measure upon the well timing of matters, and celerity in the execution—hints & false appearances should favor the idea of an attack upon Philadelphia; in order, if possible, to draw the attention from & weaken New York and its dependencies—a body of 1000 Jersey Militia, including those now at Elizabeth Town, should assemble without fail, at that place, on the 10th day of June—A number of Boats should also be collected there & two or three field Pieces (Iron Cannon) with a view of detaining the Troops on Staten Island, or making a descent thereon, if they should be removed; or very considerably weakened—these men to be draughted to serve at least two months after they arrive at the place of Rendezvous, the day above mentioned.
A like number of Connecticut Militia to assemble (unincumbered with baggage) at Norwalk; on the same day; and to be provided, if possible, with whale Boats sufficient for the Transportation of at least 800 men.—these men and Boats, to move down towards East Chester as the Enemy’s lines at Kings bridge, are approached by the main body from the highlands;—or to act from thence against Long Island or York Island as circumstances may require.
Previous to any movements of this Kind, a correspondence to be settled with Staten Island, & Long Island, to discover what effect these operations, when they take place, will have upon the Troops upon those Islands.
The militia from the States of New York and Connecticut, now at the Posts in the High-lands to be increased to two thousand; where of, five hundred only may be drawn from Connecticut (as they are called upon for a thousand to Rendezvous at Norwalk & are also to furnish Rhode Island with men)—these Troops are also to assemble at Fishkill on the 10th of June with as little Baggage as possible.—All the militia are to serve two months from the date of their arrival, & to bring arms &c. with them.
The Quarter Master Genl. & Commissaries of Provisions, & Military Stores, are to make ample provision in their respective departments under the best colorable pretences to deceive.—The heavy Brass field pieces, & largest Howitzers should be drawn to that Quarter in the same manner, and under like false appearances.—Pontons should be provided for throwing a Bridge across Harlem River, if need be.—A number of Boats should also be provided at the Post in the Highlands—numbered, and the number of men which each will carry precisely ascertained and the whole under skilful officers, to form an imbarkation with regularity and dispatch, if occasion should require it.—Sheeps skin & nails to be provided for muffling the oars.—A redoubt to be thrown up at Kings Ferry to secure the passage of Boats from the Enemy’s armed vessells.—and good Horses for transportation of the Artillery—A number of Teams should also be provided for the purpose of Transporting Provisions—Forage & Stores with the Army to Kings Bridge—and this to be done under pretence of transporting Provisions &c. to the Army in this State.—The Commissary of Provisions should also, under the Idea of providing for the Troops, on their march from the North River to this Camp, lay in a stock at Morristown & Sufferans, and a small quantity at Bound Brook.
These several Orders being given, and the alarm communicated to Philadelphia, creating proper jealousies there—and matters upon the No. River, &c. being in a proper Train, the Troops from here for that service may be put in motion in three divisions: the first may be crossed at Bordenton by the Boats & Galleys, giving oblique hints that they are bound to Billingsport after being joined by the Troops which cross above, but never the less are to halt there, till the effect of the discovery in Phila. of the real movement, is known; and then advance or, (in case the Enemy should attempt to throw a body of men across to So. Amboy by Land) oppose them in conjunction with the Militia, to the utmost.—and, that as great a body of militia may be drawn forth in case of such an event, as possible, without having them out upon uncertainty & expence, let a Beacon be fixed at the noted Tree near Princeton, to be answered by others on adjacent heights, and fired by order from the Commanding Officer at Bordenton; upon which the Militia who are to be first previously notified of the intention, are immediately to assemble at Cranberry under cover of the Continental Troops with four days Provin. & by Arms and obstructions in the roads, give every possible opposition to the march of the Enemy.
The Second division which is also to march at the same time, may take the Rout by Trenton (under pretence of not interfering with the first division at Bordenton, thence by Somerset Court House, Springfield, Great Falls, Paramus, Kakeate, &c. to Kings Ferry.
The third division, also marching at the same time & throwing out the same Ideas, may advance by the way of Coryells, Morristown, Pompton, Sufferans &c. to Kings Ferry where Boats are to meet & Transport them. These movements may be countenanced & covered, by the whole Army advancing to the White Marsh or Edgehill. The Rout of each of the two last divisions to be precisely pointed out & their Marches & halting days assigned that it may be known to an hour when they will arrive at the North River; the day before which the Troops at New Windsor &c. are to take Post at some proper Incampment or the other side to be marked out by proper hands.—from whence, after a little refreshment, & arrangement—the whole are to advance, and take post near the Enemy’s Lines and works at Kings bridge.—This undoubtedly, will draw the Enemy’s whole force to that place, or nearly so, leaving the city of New York Staten, & long Island, bare of Troops—to remedy this, the shipping will, unquestionably, be disposed of to the best advantage; but whether they can afford effectual cover to those places, or not, is a matter of doubt.—If they can, no disadvantage to them will follow their withdrawing the Troops from those Posts—If they cannot their force becomes divided—their attention distracted, by a care for different objects; and easy descents may be made on the two Islands whilst the city itself—through conscious security may be liable to surprize by a rapid move of the Boats from Peekskill to Philips or that neighborhood, for Troops to imbark, and run down under cover of a dark night, upon the ebb tide, with muffled oars.
If nothing can be effected by the surprize, or a coup de main, it remains to be considered how far the works are to be carried by regular approaches; and what may be the consequence of spending so much time as must be involved in the operation.—To advance by regular approaches to Fort Independence will, I conceive, be tedious & laborious, on acct. of the roughness of the ground—and must also be expensive in the article of Ammunition. A Bridge should be in readiness to throw over Harlem River; but unless the city, or Fort Washington could be previously possessed, or there should be force of men and Artillery sufficient to besiege Forts Independence and Washington at the same time, Troops on the Island might be endangered without answering any valuable purpose, as the Enemy could draw their supplies by water under cover of night, maugre any post we could take there.
If upon the whole then our operations are to be confined to regular approaches—first to Fort Independence—then to Fort Washington—& lastly to the city, it is incumbent on us to consider, what time it will take to effect these, and what will be the probable loss on our side in the operations—The first depends upon the nature of the Ground, and the skill with which the works are conducted.—& the second, from the time, & manner of them.—But, a matter of no small moment, is, to judge with some degree of accuracy, of the effect that these operations of ours will have upon the Enemy in Phila. To suppose that General Howe will lay quiet there till his reinforcements arrive, if he thinks New York in danger, is to suppose what I have not the smallest conception of; and therefore I rather believe that he will pursue one or the other of these two measures; either to reinforce it strongly, leaving a bare Garrison in Philadelphia—or weakly, with some of his most indifferent Regimts. (fit enough however for Garrison duty); and with the flower of his Troops, aim a stroke at this Army, and our Stores; & endeavor by vigorous exertions, to spread Terror & dismay through the State.—If he should adopt the first measure, what chance shall we have of success at New York? and what good will result from the manœuvre? unless fortunately it should be a means of transferring the war to New York—thereby disconcerting General Howe’s plans—and placing things in a more eligible situation by removing him from a Country of Supplies, & ourselves to a Country of support—on the other hand, if he should pursue the second Plan, prove successful, and the enterprize on New York unfortunate, will not the world condemn the undertaking as ill judged, and impolitic, it being a well known fact, that little is to be expected from the spirit of the People of this State, in case of such a manœuvre of the British Troops, and much to be apprehended from their disaffection.
THE THIRD PLAN.
Has advantages and disadvantages attending it—on the one hand, no advantage is attempted to be taken of the Enemy, in their weakest state—but they suffered to remain in peace, boasting their powers & expectation, & spreading their baneful influence far & wide, till their reinforcements enabled them to take the field with some degree of eclat—&, if considerable, to form new expeditions—to which may be added the disgust, and dissatisfaction of the Public and their concomitant evils.—On the other hand, we are also getting strength in the Continental line, by recruits, Draughts, &c.—and shall have time to train, and discipline our officers & men; making the number even if it should prove small, formidable—We shall have leizure to appoint our officers arrange the Army—& recover from the disordered state we are now in for want of these and knowing upon what establishment the Army will be placed—We should, moreover, be able to form our magazines—examine into the state of our Provisions and know how far it would be in our power to feed, and supply a promiscuous number before they were assembled, avoiding a considerable expence and infinite waste, which must be incurred with militia in order to attempt that which must be precarious in the Issue, and ruinous if it failed—We could also make this a strong and formidable Post—too formidable to attack, and too dangerous for the Enemy to leave in their Rear, if they should incline to advance into the country.
More reasons might be urged for, & against the three Plans here proposed—much also might be said on the state of our currency—badness of our credit—the temper of our People—their expectations—and their fear of seeing one capital place after another fall into the hands of the Enemy, without an attempt to rescue them—The blockade of our Ports—high prices of commodities &c. are also worthy of great attention. But, as these are matters which must have occurr’d to every one, before whom these considerations are proper to be laid, there needs no particular discussion of them, in this place, although, in the ultimate determination, they are worthy of the closest attention; for altho’ reason and sound policy (founded on a due regard to circumstances) must be the basis of our opinions, yet popular expectations should always be complied with, where injury in the execution is not too apparent; especially in such a contest as the one we are engaged in—where the spirit, and willingness of the People must, in a great measure, take place of coercion—
General Sullivan might (to use Gen. Howe’s phrase) make demonstration of a descent upon Rhode Island—which would prevent any succor from that Quarter to New York, or expose the Garrison there exceedingly.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Valley Forge, 2 June, 1778.
I beg leave to inform you, that agreably to the Resolutions transmitted in your Favor of the 31st ulto., I shall undertake the reform of the North Carolina Batallions in camp, as soon as circumstances will admit.
I sincerely wish the Legislatures of the several States had passed Laws, adopting the generous policy, recommended by Congress in their Resolution of the 23d of April. I am assured, by authority not to be questioned, that for want of this, Hundreds nay Thousands of people, and among them many valuable artizans, with large quantities of goods will be forced from Philadelphia, who otherwise would willingly remain. From report, their reluctance and distress upon this occasion, are scarcely to be parallelled. There are a few, whose conduct has been such, that no assurances of security, I presume, could induce them to stay; and their departure, compelled and founded as it were in the approbation of their own consciences, would answer all the purposes of example, especially if followed by a confiscation of the property. A proscribing system, or Laws having the same effect, when carried to a great extent, ever appeared to me to be impolitic; and their operation should always cease with the causes, which produced them. Examples, in terrorem are necessary, but to exile many of its Inhabitants cannot be the interest of any State.1 I have, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL DICKINSON.
Your favor of yesterday came safe to hand. What the real designs of the enemy are, remains yet to be discovered. Appearances and a thousand circumstances induce a belief, that they intend to pass through the Jerseys to New York. Your last intelligence however is a let to this opinion, inasmuch as it contradicts a former report of their assembling a number of boats in Prince’s Bay. That they will either march to Amboy, and from thence pass to Staten Island, or embark below the chevaux-de-frise, scarcely admits of a doubt; and the first being much the most probable, I would recommend it to you to be in the most perfect readiness for their reception, as you may rely upon it, that their march will be rapid whenever it is begun.
I take the liberty of giving it to you as my opinion, also, that the way to annoy, distress, and really injure the enemy on their march (after obstructing the roads as much as possible) with militia, is to suffer them to act in very light bodies. Were it not for the horse, I should think the parties could not be too small, as every man in this case acts as it were for himself, and would, I conceive, make sure of his man between Cooper’s Ferry and South Amboy, as the enemy’s guards in front, flank, and rear, must be exposed, and may be greatly injured by the concealed and well directed fire of men in ambush. This kind of annoyance ought to be incessant day and night, and would I think be very effectual. I shall add no more, than that I am, with very sincere regard, dear Sir, &c.
TO JOHN AUGUSTINE WASHINGTON.
Camp, nearValley Forge,
I do not recollect the date of my last to you, but although it is not long ago, I cannot let so good an opportunity as Captain Turberville affords, slip me. Your favors of the 10th of April from Bushfield, and 8th of May from Berkeley, are both before me, and have came to hand, I believe, since my last to you.
We have been kept in anxious expectation of the enemy’s evacuating Philadelphia for upwards of fourteen days; and I was at a loss, as they had embarked all their baggage and stores on board transports, and had passed all those transports, (a few only excepted,) below the chevaux-de-frise, to account for their delay; when, behold, on Friday last the additional commissioners, to wit, Lord Carlisle, Governor Johnstone, and Mr. William Eden, arrived at the city. Whether this heretofore has been the cause of the delay, I shall not undertake to say, but more than probably it will detain them for some days to come. They give out, as I understand, that we may make our own terms, provided we will but return to our dependence on Great Britain. But if this is their expectation, and they have no other powers than the Acts (which we have seen) give them there will be no great trouble in managing a negotiation; nor will there be much time spent in the business, I apprehend. They talk as usual of a great reinforcement; but whether the situation of affairs between them and France will admit of this, is not quite so clear. My wishes lead me, together with other circumstances, to believe that they will find sufficient employment, for their reinforcements at least, in other quarters. Time, however, will discover and reveal things more fully to us.
Out of your first and second drafts, by which we ought to have had upwards of thirty-five hundred men for the regiments from that State, we have received only twelve hundred and forty-two in all. I need only mention this fact, in proof of what other States do; of our prospects also; and as a criterion by which you may form some estimate of our real numbers when you hear them, as I doubt not you often do, spoken of in magnified terms. From report, however, I should do injustice to the States of Maryland and New Jersey, were I not to add, that they are likely to get their regiments nearly completed.1 The extreme fatigue and hardship, which the soldiers underwent in the course of the winter, added to the want of clothes and, I may add, provisions, have rendered them sickly, especially in the brigade you have mentioned (of North Carolina). Many deaths have happened in consequence, and yet the army is in exceeding good spirits.
You have doubtless seen a publication of the treaty with France, the message of the King of France by his ambassador to the court of London, with the King’s speech to, and addresses of Parliament upon the occasion. If one was to judge of the temper of these courts from the above documents, war I should think must have commenced long before this; and yet the commissioners (but we must allow them to lye greatly) say, it had not taken place the 28th of April, and that the differences between the two courts were likely to be accommodated. But I believe not a word of it; and as you ask my opinion of Lord North’s speech, and bills, I shall candidly declare to you, that they appear to me, to be a compound of fear, art, and villainy, and these ingredients so equally mixed, that I scarcely know which predominates.
I am sorry to hear of Billy Washington’s ill health, but hope he is recovering. Mrs. Washington left this place the day before yesterday for Mount Vernon. My love to my sister and the family is most sincerely offered, and I am, with the truest regard and affection, yours, &c.
TO HENRY LAURENS.
11 June, 1778.
I thank you for your favor of the 8th, which was duly received. I must take the freedom to hint to you, that if in the packets transmitted by this conveyance there are any letters for persons, with whom you are not acquainted, or in whose firmness and attachment you have not an entire confidence, it may not be improper to open them. This, I am persuaded, would be the case. However, I am the more induced to mention it, as the obvious, nay, almost sole design of several letters, which have come to my hands, is to give the commissioners the most favorable characters for candor and integrity, and to establish a belief, that they have the most competent and extensive powers. The letters coming sealed was sufficient to awaken any suspicions, and I shall not transmit a single one of this complexion. I am convinced that you and I move on the same principle, and therefore I am certain that I hazard nothing in taking this liberty.
I am, dear Sir, with great friendship and esteem, &c.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL GATES.
I have your favor of the 8th inst, with its several enclosures. Whether the intention of the enemy is to make the present campaign offensive or defensive, time alone must discover; but if the former, I cannot think they mean to operate against the eastern States in any other manner, than by laying waste their coast and destroying their seaport towns. They will never venture into a country full of people, who they have always found ready to give them the most spirited opposition. Should the North River be their object, I can, as I have mentioned in my former letters, march such a part of this army thither by the time they can reach it, that they will not be able to effect any thing by a coup de main.1
The arrival of the commissioners from Great Britain, upon the 7th instant, seems to have suspended the total evacuation of Philadelphia. The transports, except a few store-ships and victuallers, have fallen down the river, and many of the troops are in Jersey, where they have thrown over a number of their horses and wagons. They seem to be waiting until the commissioners shall have announced themselves to Congress, and found whether a negotiation, under their present powers, can be brought about. They asked liberty, upon the 9th, to send their secretary, Dr. Ferguson, to Yorktown; but, not knowing whether this would be agreeable to Congress, I refused the request until I should know their sentiments. The Commissioners are Lord Carlisle, Mr. Will. Eden, and Govr. Johnstone. I am, &c.2
TO MAJOR-GENERAL CHARLES LEE.
Head-Quarters, 15 June, 1778.
I have received your letter of this date, and thank you, as I shall any officer, over whom I have the honor to be placed, for his opinion and advice in matters of importance; especially when they proceed from the fountain of candor, and not from a captious spirit, or an itch for criticism.
No man can be more sensible of the defects of our present arrangement, than I am; no man more sensible of the advantage of having the commander and commanded of every corps well known to each other, and the army properly organized, than myself. Heaven and my own letters to Congress can witness, on the one hand, how ardently I have labored to effect these points during the past winter and spring; the army, on the other, bears witness to the effect. Suspended between the old and new establishments, I could govern myself by neither with propriety; and the hourly expectation of a committee, for the purpose of reducing some regiments and changing the establishment of all, rendered a mere temporary alteration, (which from its uncertainty and shortness could effect no valuable end), unnecessary. That I had a power to shift regiments and alter brigades (every day, if I chose to do it,) I never entertained a doubt of; but the efficacy of the measure I have very much questioned, as frequent changes, without apparent causes, are rather ascribed to caprice and whim, than to stability and judgment.
The mode of shifting the major-generals from the command of a division, in the present tranquil state of affairs, to a more important one in action and other capital movements of the whole army, is not less disagreeable to my ideas, than repugnant to yours, but is the result of necessity. For, having recommended to Congress the appointment of lieutenant-generals for the discharge of the latter duties, and they having neither approved nor disapproved the measure, I am hung in suspense; and being unwilling, on the one hand, to give up the benefits resulting from the command of lieutenant-generals in the cases above-mentioned, or to deprive the divisions of their major-generals for ordinary duty on the other, I have been led to adopt a kind of medium course, which, though not perfect in itself, is in my judgment the best that circumstances will admit of, till Congress shall have decided upon the proposition before them.1 Your remark upon the disadvantages of an officers’ being suddenly removed from the command of a division to a wing, though not without foundation, as I have before acknowledged, does not apply so forcible in the present case, as you seem to think it does. There is no major-general in this army, that is not pretty well known, and who may, if he chooses it, soon become acquainted with such officers as may be serviceable to him. Their commands being announced in general orders, and the army prepared for their reception, a major-general may go with the same ease to the command of a wing consisting of five brigades, as to a division composed of two, and will be received with as little confusion, as the brigades remain perfect and no changes have happened in them.
Mr. Boudinot’s conjecture of the enemy’s intention, although it does not coincide with mine, is nevertheless worthy of attention; and the evils of the measure have been guarded against, as far as it has been in my power, by removing the stores provisions &c. as fast as possible from the Head of Elk and the Susquehanna, &c. and by exploring the country, surveying the roads, and marking the defiles and strong grounds; an engineer and three surveyors having been employed in this work near a month, though their report is not yet come in. Boats are also prepared in the Susquehanna for the transportation of our troops, in case we should find it necessary to move that way. But nevertheless it gives me real pleasure to find you have turned your thoughts that way, and are revolving the questions contained in your letter; and here let me again assure you, that I shall be always happy in a free communication of your sentiments upon any important subject relative to the service, and only beg that they may come directly to myself. The custom, which many officers have, of speaking freely of things and reprobating measures, which upon investigation may be found to be unavoidable, is never productive of good, but often of very mischievous consequences. I am &c.1
TO JAMES HUNTER, ESQ., NEAR FREDERICKSBURG, VA.
Valley Forge, June 15, 1778.
Your favor of the 12th ultimo did not come to my hands ’till yesterday. The land therein mentioned hath not been legally conveyed or properly secured, to me by my mother. This reason, if no other, would prevent me from selling either the land or the wood that grows on it; but I have other reasons against it, equally forcible. One is, that I have had an intention, which my present situation and absence have been the only Bar to the execution, of building a Saw Mill, for the purpose of sawing up the pines which I am told the land abounds in, and which constitutes the chief value of it, provided its bowels have been stripped of all the ore, and which is denied by some. If no disadvantage on account of Roads into the Land, and the consequent destruction of Wood and Timber by the Miners and their followers, was to result, I should have no objection, so far as the matter depended upon me; The things at the same time, appearing absolutely necessary for the well being of your Works, to part with the Ore upon terms which shall be judged reasonable between Man & Man. Wishing you success in your undertaking, I am with great Esteem and Regard,
TO JOSEPH REED, DELEGATE IN CONGRESS FROM PENNSYLVANIA.
Valley Forge, 15 June, 1778.
I thank you very much for your friendly favor of this date, and your polite attention in submitting the draft of your letter to Governor Johnstone to my perusal. I return it again; but, before you transcribe a fair copy, I would wish to see you upon the subject of it. Perhaps there are some parts of it which might receive a small alteration. In the present situation of things, all correspondence of this nature must and will be weighed and scanned with a scrupulous exactness; and even compliment, if carried far, may not pass entirely uncensured.
There is another consideration with me. Congress perhaps, at this instant, are deliberating on an answer to give the Commissioners to an address, they have received from them. Should a letter, therefore, from a member (in which light you will be considered) hold out sentiments different from theirs, an unfavorable use, will doubtless be made of it.
I am, dear Sir, your affectionate &c.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Head-Quarters, half after eleven, a.m.,
I have the pleasure to inform Congress, that I was this minute advised by Mr. Roberts that the enemy evacuated the city early this morning. He was down at the Middle Ferry on this side, where he received the intelligence from a number of the citizens, who were on the opposite shore. They told him that about three thousand of the troops had embarked on board transports. The destruction of the bridge prevented him from crossing. I expect every moment official accounts on the subject. I have put six brigades in motion; and the rest of the army are preparing to follow with all possible despatch. We shall proceed towards Jersey, and govern ourselves according to circumstances. As yet I am not fully ascertained of the enemy’s destination; nor is there wanting a variety of opinions, as to the route they will pursue, whether it will be by land or sea, admitting it to be New York. Some think it probable, in such case, that part of their army, which crossed the Delaware, will march down the Jersey shore some distance, and then embark. There is other intelligence corroborating Mr. Roberts’s, but none official is yet come. I have the honor to be, &c.1
P. S. A letter from Captain McLane, dated in Philadelphia, this minute came to hand, confirming the evacuation.2
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Head-Quarters, six o’clock, p. m.,
Since I had the honor of addressing you this forenoon, I have received your letter of the 17th, with its several enclosures. I am happy in the approbation of Congress respecting my conduct to Dr. Ferguson. I could not find, after the maturest consideration on the subject, that his passage through the country could be in any wise material, or answer any other purpose than to spread disaffection.
I shall take every measure in my power to prevent an intercourse between the army and the enemy, and also between the inhabitants and the latter. You may rest assured, that whatever letters come from their lines shall be, as they ever have been, minutely inspected; and whenever they import any thing of an insidious cast, they shall be suppressed. In this I trust I shall not offend against any rule of right, nor the strictest propriety. The letter for the commissioners I shall transmit by any earliest opportunity; however, their departure from Philadelphia will prevent their getting it as soon as they otherwise would have done. I cannot say that I regret the delay; for there is no knowing to what acts of depredation and ruin their disappointed ambition might have led. And permit me to add, that I think there was no other criterion for Congress to go by, than the one they have adopted. The proceedings of the 22d of April, it is probable, have reached Britain by this time, and will show that the present powers of the commissioners, or at least those we are obliged to suppose them to possess, are wholly incompetent to any valuable end.
I have appointed General Arnold to command in Philadelphia, as the state of his wound will not permit his services in a more active line. Colonel Jackson,1 with a detachment of troops, is to attend him; and I flatter myself that order will be preserved, and the several purposes answered, expressed by Congress in their resolution of the 4th instant.2 The General set out this evening, and I myself shall move with the main body of the army at five in the morning to-morrow.3 I have the honor to be, &c.
P. S. By this conveyance you will be pleased to receive the proceedings of the court of inquiry, respecting the losses of the forts in the Highlands.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL GATES.
Four o’clock 20 June, 1778.
I think it necessary to inform you by the return of the express, who brought your packet for Congress, that I am now with the main body of the army within ten miles of Coryell’s Ferry.2 General Lee is advanced with six brigades, and will cross to-night or to-morrow morning.3 By the last intelligence the enemy were near Mount Holly, and moving very slowly; but, as there are so many roads open to them, their route could not be ascertained. I shall enter the Jerseys to-morrow, and give you the earliest notice of their movements and whatever may affect you. As the supplies of forage and provision in your quarter will be objects of the utmost importance, they will therefore claim your attention. I am, Sir, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL ARNOLD.
Ten Miles from Coryell’s, 21 June, 1778.
This will be delivered you by Major Wemp, who has the conduct and care of some warriors from the Seneca nations, who are also accompanied by a few of our Oneida and Tuscarora friends. The enclosed extract of a letter from our Indian commissioners at Albany will inform you of the Senecas’ business in this quarter. I cannot give them the smallest account of Astyarix,1 of whom they are in pursuit, nor did I ever hear of his captivity, till I was advised of it a few days ago by General Schuyler. They have been treated with civility; but at the same time I told them of their hostilities, and that as soon as the British army were gone, if they did not immediately cease them, I would turn our whole force against them and the other Indian nations, who have taken a like bloody part against us, and cut them to pieces. They have also had a view of the main body of the army, and have been told of our great resources of men and number of troops elsewhere. I hope this circumstance, with the evacuation of Philadelphia and their own evidence of it, added to our civilities and some presents, will have a happy effect upon the temper and disposition of their nation when they return. I wish you to order them such trinkets, &c as., you may judge necessary, keeping up however a distinction between them and the Oneidas and Tuscaroras, who are our friends. I would have the favors and presents to these greatly to exceed.
Major Wemp has despatches from the Sachems for all the warriors, and the men here before, to return home immediately. Such as remained, I believe are with Monsieur Tousard. I shall be glad that you will have them collected, and have them all well presented, after which they may return to their nation, in obedience to their Sachems’ orders, if they incline. I have given the Senecas a letter to Congress respecting Astyarix’s releasement, if he can be found.
I received your favor yesterday. If Morgan’s corps could have been on the rear of the enemy, they might have harassed them, but not without considerable risk. They are now advancing, as the whole army is, to the Delaware. We have been much impeded by the rain. The troops with General Lee crossed the river last night.1 I am, in haste, dear Sir, &c. You will be pleased to give the necessary orders for their being supplied with provisions while in Phila., & on their way to Congress.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Head-Quarters, near Coryell’s
I have the honor to inform you that I am now in Jersey, and that the troops are passing the river at Coryell’s, and are mostly over. The latest intelligence I have had respecting the enemy was yesterday from General Dickinson. He says they were in the morning at Morestown and Mount Holly; but that he had not been able to learn what route they would pursue from thence; nor was it easy to determine, as, from their then situation, they might either proceed to South Amboy, or by way of Brunswic. We have been a good deal impeded in our march by rainy weather. As soon as we have cleaned the arms, and can get matters in train, we propose moving towards Princeton, in order to avail ourselves of any favorable occasions, that may present themselves, of attacking the enemy. I have the honor to be, &c.
TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE.
You are immediately to proceed with the detachment commanded by Genl. Poor, and form a junction as expeditiously as possible with that under the command of Genl. Scott. You are to use the most effectual means for gaining the enemy’s left flank and rear, and giving them every degree of annoyance. All Continental parties, that are already on the lines, will be under your command, and you will take such measures, in concert with Genl. Dickinson, as will cause the enemy the greatest impediment and loss in their march. For these purposes you will attack them as occasion may require by detachment, and, if a proper opening shd. be given, by operating against them with the whole force of your command. You will naturally take such precautions, as will secure you against surprise, and maintain your communication with this army. Given at Kingston, this 25th day of June, 1778.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL LEE.
Cranberry, 26 June, 1778.2
Your uneasiness on account of the command of yesterday’s detachment fills me with concern, as it is not in my power fully to remove it without wounding the feelings of the Marquis de Lafayette. I have thought of an expedient, which, though not quite equal to either of your views, may in some measure answer both; and that is to make another detachment from this army for the purpose of aiding and supporting the several detachments now under the command of the Marquis & giving you the command of the whole, under certain restrictions; which circumstances arising from your own conduct yesterday render almost unavoidable.1
The expedient I would propose, is, for you to march towards the Marquis with Scott’s and Varnum’s brigades. Give him notice, that you are advancing to support him, and that you are to have the command of the whole advanced body; but, as he may have formed some enterprise with the advice of the officers commanding the several corps under his command, which will not admit of delay or alteration, you will desire him to proceed as if no change had happened and you will give him every assistance and countenance in your power. This, as I observed before, is not quite the thing; but may possibly answer, in some degree, the views of both. That it may do so, and the public service receive benefit from the measure, is the sincere wish of, dr. Sir, yr. most obedient servant.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Englishtown,1 half after eleven, a.m.,
I was duly honored with your favor of the 20th instant, with the report to which it referred, and trust my situation will apologize for my not answering it before. I am now here with the main body of the army, and pressing hard to come up with the enemy. They encamped yesterday at Monmouth Court-House, having almost the whole of their front, particularly their left wing, secured by a marsh and thick wood, and their rear by a difficult defile, from whence they moved very early this morning. Our advance, from the rainy weather, and the intense heat when it was fair, (though these may have been equally disadvantageous to them,) has been greatly delayed. Several of our men have fallen sick from these causes; and a few unfortunately have fainted, and died in a little time after.
We have a select and strong detachment more forward, under the command of Major-General Lee, with orders to attack their rear if possible. Whether the detachment will be able to come up with it, is a matter of question, especially before they get into strong grounds. Besides this, Morgan, with his corps, and some bodies of militia, are on their flanks. I cannot determine yet at what place they intend to embark. Some think they will push for Sandy Hook, whilst others suppose they mean to go to Shoal Harbor. The latter opinion seems to be founded in the greater probability, as, from intelligence, several vessels and craft are lying off that place.1 We have made a few prisoners; and they have lost a good many men by desertion. I cannot ascertain their number, as they came in to our advanced parties, and pushed immediately into the country. I think five or six hundred is the least number that have come in, in the whole. They are chiefly foreigners.2
I have the honor to be, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Englishtown, 1 July, 1778.
I embrace this first moment of leisure to give Congress a more full and particular account of the movements of the army under my command since its passing the Delaware, than the situation of our affairs would heretofore permit.
I had the honor to advise them, that, on the appearances of the enemy’s intention to march through Jersey becoming serious, I had detached General Maxwell’s brigade, in conjunction with the militia of that State, to interrupt and impede their progress by every obstruction in their power, so as to give time to the army under my command to come up with them, and take advantage of any favorable circumstances that might present themselves. The army having proceeded to Coryell’s Ferry, and crossed the Delaware at that place, I immediately detached Colonel Morgan with a select corps of six hundred men to reinforce General Maxwell, and marched with the main body towards Princeton.
The slow advance of the enemy had greatly the air of design, and led me, with others, to suspect that General Clinton, desirous of a general action, was endeavoring to draw us down into the lower country, in order, by a rapid movement, to gain our right, and take possession of the strong grounds above us. This consideration, and to give the troops time to repose and refresh themselves from the fatigues they had experienced from rainy and excessively hot weather, determined me to halt at Hopewell township, about five miles from Princeton, where we remained till the morning of the 25th. On the preceding day I made a second detachment of fifteen hundred chosen troops under Brigadier-General Scott, to reinforce those already in the vicinity of the enemy, the more effectually to annoy and delay their march. The next day the army moved to Kingston; and, having received intelligence that the enemy were prosecuting their route toward Monmouth Court-House, I despatched a thousand select men under Brigadier-General Wayne, and sent Marquis de Lafayette to take the command of the whole advanced corps, including Maxwell’s brigade and Morgan’s light-infantry, with orders to take the first fair opportunity of attacking the enemy’s rear.
In the evening of the same day the whole army marched from Kingston, where our baggage was left, with intention to preserve a proper distance for supporting the advanced corps, and arrived at Cranberry early the next morning. The intense heat of the weather, and a heavy storm unluckily coming on, made it impossible to resume our march that day without great inconvenience and injury to the troops. Our advanced corps, being indifferently circumstanced, moved from the position it had held the night before, and took post in the evening on the Monmouth road about five miles from the enemy’s rear, in expectation of attacking them next morning on their march. The main body having remained at Cranberry, the advanced corps was found to be too remote, and too far upon the right to be supported either in case of an attack upon or from the enemy; which induced me to send orders to the Marquis to file off by his left towards Englishtown, which he accordingly executed early in the morning of the 27th.
The enemy, in marching from Allentown, had changed their disposition, and placed their best troops in the rear, consisting of all the grenadiers, light-infantry, and chasseurs of the line. This alteration made it necessary to increase the number of our advanced corps; in consequence of which I detached Major-General Lee with two brigades to join the Marquis at Englishtown, on whom of course the command of the whole devolved, amounting to about five thousand men. The main body marched the same day, and encamped within three miles of that place. Morgan’s corps was left hovering on the enemy’s right flank; and the Jersey militia, amounting at this time to about seven or eight hundred men, under General Dickinson, on their left.
The enemy were now encamped in a strong position, with their right extending about a mile and a half beyond the Court-House in the parting of the roads leading to Shrewsbury and Middletown, and their left along the road from Allentown to Monmouth, about three miles on this side the Court-House. Their right flank lay on the skirt of a small wood, while their left was secured by a very thick one, a morass running towards their rear, and their whole front covered by a wood, and, for a considerable extent towards the left, with a morass. In this situation they halted till the morning of the 28th.
Matters being thus situated, and having had the best information, that, if the enemy were once arrived at the Heights of Middletown, ten or twelve miles from where they were, it would be impossible to attempt any thing against them with a prospect of success, I determined to attack their rear the moment they should get in motion from their present ground. I communicated my intention to General Lee, and ordered him to make his disposition for the attack, and to keep his troops constantly lying upon their arms, to be in readiness at the shortest notice. This was done with respect to the troops under my immediate command.
About five in the morning General Dickinson sent an express, informing that the front of the enemy had begun their march. I instantly put the army in motion, and sent orders by one of my aids to General Lee to move on and attack them, unless there should be very powerful reasons to the contrary, acquainting him at the same time, that I was marching to support him, and, for doing it with the greater expedition and convenience, should make the men disencumber themselves of their packs and blankets.
After marching about five miles, to my great surprise and mortification, I met the whole advanced corps retreating, and, as I was told, by General Lee’s orders, without having made any opposition, except one fire, given by a party under the command of Colonel Butler, on their being charged by the enemy’s cavalry, who were repulsed. I proceeded immediately to the rear of the corps, which I found closely pressed by the enemy, and gave directions for forming part of the retreating troops, who, by the brave and spirited conduct of the officers, aided by some pieces of well-served artillery, checked the enemy’s advance, and gave time to make a disposition of the left wing and second line of the army upon an eminence, and in a wood a little in the rear, covered by a morass in front. On this were placed some batteries of cannon by Lord Sterling, who commanded the left wing, which played upon the enemy with great effect, and, seconded by parties of infantry detached to oppose them, effectually put a stop to their advance.
General Lee being detached with the advanced corps, the command of the right wing, for the occasion, was given to General Greene. For the expedition of the march, and to counteract any attempt to turn our right, I had ordered him to file off by the new church, two miles from Englishtown, and fall into the Monmouth road, a small distance in the rear of the Court-House. On intelligence of the retreat, he marched up and took a very advantageous position on the right.
The enemy by this time, finding themselves warmly opposed in front, made an attempt to turn our left flank; but they were bravely repulsed and driven back by detached parties of infantry. They also made a movement to our right with as little success, General Greene having advanced a body of troops with artillery to a commanding piece of ground; which not only disappointed their design of turning our right, but severely enfiladed those in front of the left wing. In addition to this, General Wayne advanced with a body of troops, and kept up so severe and well-directed a fire, that the enemy were soon compelled to retire behind the defile where the first stand in the beginning of the action had been made.
In this situation the enemy had both their flanks secured by thick woods and morassses, while their front could only be approached thro’ a narrow pass. I resolved nevertheless to attack them; and for that purpose ordered General Poor, with his own and the Carolina brigade to move round upon their right and General Woodford upon their left, and the artillery to gall them in front. But the impediments in their way prevented their getting within reach before it was dark. They remained upon the ground they had been directed to occupy during the night, with the intention to begin the attack early the next morning; and the army continued lying upon their arms in the field of action, to be in readiness to support them. In the mean time the enemy were employed in removing their wounded, and about twelve o’clock at night marched away in such silence, that, tho’ General Poor lay extremely near them, they effected their retreat without his knowledge. They carried off all their wounded, except four officers and about forty privates, whose wounds were too dangerous to permit their removal.
The extreme heat of the weather, the fatigue of the men from their march through a deep sandy country almost entirely destitute of water, and the distance the enemy had gained by marching in the night, made a pursuit impracticable and fruitless. It would have answered no valuable purpose, and would have been fatal to numbers of our men, several of whom died the preceding day with heat.
Were I to conclude my account of this day’s transactions, without expressing my obligations to the officers of the army in general, I should do injustice to their merit, and violence to my own feelings. They seemed to vie with each other in manifesting their zeal and bravery. The catalogue of those, who distinguished themselves, is too long to admit of particularizing individuals. I cannot, however, forbear mentioning Brigadier-General Wayne, whose good conduct and bravery thro’ the whole action deserves particular commendation.
The behavior of the troops in general, after they recovered from the first surprise occasioned by the retreat of the advanced corps, was such as could not be surpassed.
All the artillery, both officers and men, that were engaged, distinguished themselves in a remarkable manner.
Enclosed, Congress will be pleased to receive a return of our killed, wounded, and missing. Among the first were Lieutenant-Colonel Bunner of Pennsylvania, and Major Dickinson of Virginia, both officers of distinguished merit, and much to be regretted. The enemy’s slain, left on the field, and buried by us, according to the return by the persons assigned to that duty, were four officers and two hundred and forty-five privates. In the former number was the honorable Colonel Monckton. Exclusive of these, they buried some themselves, as there were several new graves near the field of battle. How many men they may have had wounded cannot be determined; but, from the usual proportion, the number must have been considerable. There were a few prisoners taken.
The peculiar situation of General Lee at this time requires that I should say nothing of his conduct. He is now in arrest. The charges against him, with such sentence as the court-martial may decree in his case, shall be transmitted for the approbation or disapprobation of Congress, as soon as it shall have passed.
Being fully convinced by the gentlemen of this country, that the enemy cannot be hurt or injured in their embarkation at Sandy Hook, the place to which they are going, and unwilling to get too far removed from the North River, I put the troops in motion early this morning, and shall proceed that way, leaving the Jersey brigade, Morgan’s corps, and other light parties (the militia being all dismissed) to hover about them, countenance desertion, and to prevent depredations as far as possible. After they embark, the former will take post in the neighborhood of Elizabethtown, the latter rejoin the corps from which they were detached. I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL GATES.
Brunswic, 3 July, 1778.
My last to you was on the 29th of June.
I have the pleasure to inform you that the loss of the enemy in the action of the 28th was more considerable than we at first apprehended. By the return of the officers, who had charge of the burying parties, it appears that they left two hundred and forty-five non-commissioned officers and privates dead on the field, and four officers, one of whom was the honorable Colonel Monckton of the grenadiers. Our loss was seven officers and fifty-two rank and file killed, and seventeen officers and one hundred and twenty rank and file wounded. Among the former were Lieutenant-Colonel Bunner1 of Pennsylvania and Major Dickinson2 of Virginia, who were the only officers of rank. There were several fresh graves and burying holes found near the field, in which the enemy put their dead before they quitted it. These were exclusive of the two hundred and forty-five before mentioned. We have made upwards of one hundred prisoners, including forty privates and four officers left wounded at Monmouth Court-House. The number of their wounded we can only guess at, as they were employed in carrying them off during the action and till midnight, when they stole off as silent as the grave. Finding that the enemy had during the action pushed their baggage to Middle-town, and that they, by marching off in the night after the engagement, would gain that place before there was any possibility of overtaking their rear, I determined to give over the pursuit. From the information of General Forman, and many gentlemen well acquainted with the country, I found it would be impossible to annoy them in their embarkation, as the neck of land, upon which they now are, is defended by a narrow passage, which being possessed by a few men would effectually oppose our whole force. Besides this consideration, I thought it highly expedient to turn towards the North River. I marched from Englishtown on the 30th of last month, and arrived here yesterday with the whole army, except Maxwell’s brigade and Morgan’s corps, who are left upon the rear of the enemy to prevent their making depredations, and to encourage desertions, which still prevail to a considerable degree.1
The march from Englishtown was inconceivably distressing to the troops and horses. The distance is about twenty miles through a deep sand without a drop of water, except at South River, which is half way. This, added to the intense heat, killed a few and knocked up many of our men, and killed a number of our horses. To recruit the former upon the airy, open grounds near this place, and to give the quartermaster-general an opportunity of providing the latter, will occasion a short halt, but you may depend that we will be with you as soon as possible. My present intention is to cross the North River at King’s Ferry; but, should you be of opinion, that it will be in the power of the enemy to hinder our passage, be pleased to inform me, as it would be losing much time to be obliged to turn up from thence, and march through the Clove. The route by King’s Ferry is so much the shortest and best, that if the passage could be kept open by throwing up works and mounting some cannon upon them, I think it would be worth while having it done. But this I leave to your determination. I am, &c.
TO JOHN AUGUSTINE WASHINGTON.
Brunswic,in New Jersey, 4 July, 1778.
Your letter of the 20th ulto. came to my hands last night.
Before this will have reached you, the account of the battle of Monmouth will probably get to Virginia; which, from an unfortunate and bad beginning, turned out a glorious and happy day. The enemy evacuated Philadelphia on the 18th instant. At ten o’clock that day I got intelligence of it, and by two o’clock, or soon after, had six brigades on their march for the Jerseys, and followed with the whole army next morning. On the 21st we completed our passage over the Delaware at Coryell’s Ferry, (about thirty-three miles above Philadelphia,) and distant from Valley Forge near forty miles. From this ferry we moved down towards the enemy, and on the 27th got within six miles of them.
General Lee, having the command of the van of the army, consisting of full five thousand chosen men, was ordered to begin the attack next morning, so soon as the enemy began their march; to be supported by me; but, strange to tell! when he came up with the enemy, a retreat commenced; whether by his order, or from other causes, is now the subject of inquiry, and consequently improper to be descanted upon, as he is in arrest, and a court-martial sitting for trial of him. A retreat, however, was the fact, be the causes as they may; and the disorder arising from it would have proved fatal to the army, had not that bountiful Providence, which has never failed us in the hour of distress, enabled me to form a regiment or two (of those that were retreating) in the face of the enemy and under their fire; by which means a stand was made long enough (the place through which the enemy were pursuing being narrow, to form the troops, that were advancing upon an advantageous piece of ground in the rear. Here our affairs took a favorable turn, and, from being pursued, we drove the enemy back over the ground they had followed, and recovered the field of battle, and possessed ourselves of their dead. But as they retreated behind a morass very difficult to pass, and had both flanks secured with thick woods, it was found impracticable with our men, fainting with fatigue, heat, and want of water, to do any thing more that night. In the morning we expected to renew the action; when, behold, the enemy had stole off as silent as the grave in the night, after having sent away their wounded. Getting a night’s march of us, and having but ten miles to a strong post, it was judged inexpedient to follow them any further, but move towards the North River, lest they should have any design upon our posts there.
We buried 245 of their dead on the field of action; they buried several themselves, and many have been since found in the woods, where, during the action, they had drawn them to, and hid them. We have taken five officers and upwards of one hundred prisoners, but the amount of their wounded we have not learnt with any certainty; according to the common proportion of four or five to one, there should be at least a thousand or 1200. Without exaggeration, their trip through the Jerseys, in killed, wounded, prisoners, and deserters, has cost them at least 2000 men of their best troops. We had 60 men killed, 132 wounded, and about 130 missing, some of whom I suppose may yet come in. Among our slain officers is Major Dickinson and Captain Fauntleroy, two very valuable ones.
I observe what you say concerning voluntary enlistments, or rather your scheme for raising two thousand volunteers; and candidly own to you, I have no opinion of it. These measures only tend to burthen the public with a number of officers, without adding one jot to your strength, but greatly to confusion and disorder. If the several States would but fall upon some vigorous measures to fill up their respective regiments, nothing more need be asked of them. But while these are neglected, or in other words ineffectually and feebly attended to, and these succedaniums tried, you never can have an army to be depended upon.
The enemy’s whole force marched through the Jerseys, (that were able) excepting the regiment of Anspach, which, it is said, they were afraid to trust, and therefore sent them round to New York by water, along with the commissioners. I do not learn that they have received much of a reinforcement as yet; nor do I think they have much prospect of any worth speaking of, as I believe they stand very critically with respect to France. As the post waits, I shall only add my love to my sister and the family, and strong assurances of being, with the sincerest regard and love, your most affectionate brother.
Mr. Ballendine’s letter shall be sent to New York by the first flag. I am now moving on towards the North River.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL LORD STIRLING AND THE MEMBERS OF THE GENERAL COURT-MARTIAL FOR THE TRIAL OF MAJOR-GENERAL LEE.
7 July, 1778.
On further consideration of the adjournment of the court-martial to Morristown, it appears to me, that the matter is liable to many great and almost insuperable objections. Should the court remain there, it would be necessary for more officers to be drawn directly from the army, than could be prudently spared; and the frequent occasions there will be of calling on the same witnesses on several, and often on the same points in question, would cause such a detention of them as might be very injurious. From these considerations I am induced to change the place of the court’s sitting, and to request that they will adjourn from Morristown to Paramus Church, which will be immediately in the route of the army. The court will be pleased to notify General Lee and the witnesses of the removal, in such a way as they shall deem most proper. I am, &c.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Camp, nearBrunswic, 7 July, 1778.
I have the honor to inform you, that, on Sunday morning, the left wing of the army moved towards the North River; the right followed yesterday; and the second line, which forms the rear division, is also now in motion. I shall advance as fast as I can consistently with the circumstances of the weather and health of the troops.
The enemy, from the advices of our parties of observation, were nearly if not all embarked yesterday. They have continued to desert upon all occasions.
I should be extremely happy if the committee appointed to arrange the army would repair to it as soon as possible. Congress can form no adequate idea of the discontents prevailing on account of the unsettled state of rank, and the uncertainty in which officers are, as to their future situation. The variety of hands in which the power of granting commissions and filling up vacancies is lodged, and other circumstances, have occasioned frequent instances of younger officers commanding their seniors, from the former having received their commissions, and the latter not; and these not only in the line of the army at large, but in their own brigades, and even in their own regiments. This, it will be readily conceived is necessarily productive of much confusion, altercation, and complaint, and requires the speediest remedy. I have the honor, &c.
P. S. By accounts from Monmouth, more of the enemy’s dead have been found. It is said the number buried by us and the inhabitants exceeds three hundred.1
TO GOVERNOR CLINTON.
Head-Quarters,Paramus, 11 July, 1778.
The first division of the army moved from hence this morning about four miles, to give room to the second; they will reach Kakiate to-morrow evening, and the North River the next day. I shall halt the remainder hereabouts a few days to refresh the men.2 I am yet undetermined as to the expediency of throwing the army immediately over the North River. I will state my reasons for hesitating, and shall beg to hear your sentiments upon the matter.
Upon conversing with the Quarter Master and Commissary General and Commissary of Forage upon the prospect of supplies, they all agree that the army can be much more easily subsisted upon the west, than upon the east, side of the river. The country on this side is more plentiful in regard to forage; and flour, which is the article we shall be most likely to be distressed for, coming from the southward, will will have a shorter transportation, and consequently the supply more easily kept up. We are besides in a country devoted to the enemy, and gleaning it take so much from them. Was this the only point to be determined, there would not remain a moment’s doubt; but the principal matter to be considered is (upon a supposition that the enemy mean to operate up the North River) whether the army, being all, or part upon this side, can afford a sufficient aud timely support to the posts, should they put such a design in execution. Upon this point then, Sir, I request your full and candid opinion. You are well acquainted with the condition of the posts, and know what opposition they are at present capable of making when sufficiently manned, which ought in my opinion to be immediately done. After that, you will please to take into consideration whether any and what advantages may be derived from the army’s being upon the east side of the river, and if there, what position would be most eligible. The neighborhood of the White Plains, after leaving sufficient garrisons in our Rear, strikes me at present. We know the strength of the Ground, and we cover a considerable extent of country, and draw the forage which would otherwise fall into the hands of the enemy.
In forming your opinion, be pleased to advert to the necessity of keeping our force pretty much collected, for which side soever you may determine. For should the enemy find us disjointed, they may throw the whole of theirs upon part of ours, and, by their shipping, keep us from making a junction. In determining the above, you are to take it for granted that we can, should it be deemed most expedient, support the army upon the east, tho’ it will be with infinitely more difficulty than upon the west side of the river. By the latest accounts from New York, it does not seem probable that the enemy will operate suddenly; they have been much harassed and deranged by their march thro’ Jersey, and are at present encamped upon Long, Staten and York Islands. We have this day a rumor that a French fleet has been seen off the coast and that the English is preparing to sail from New York in pursuit of them. But it is but a rumor. I am, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Camp, atParamus, 12 July, 1778.
On Friday evening I had the honor to receive your letter of the 7th inst., with its inclosures.
The vote of approbation and thanks, which Congress have been pleased to honor me with, gives me the highest satisfaction, and at the same time demands a return of my sincerest acknowledgments.1 The other resolution I communicated with great pleasure to the army at large in yesterday’s orders.
The left wing of the army, which advanced yesterday four miles beyond this, moved this morning on the route towards King’s Ferry. The right and second line, which make the last division, are now here, where they will halt for a day or two, or perhaps longer, if no circumstances of a pressing nature cast up, in order to refresh themselves from the great fatigues they have suffered from the intense heat of the weather.
We have had it reported for two or three days thro’ several channels from New York, that there is a French fleet on the coast; and it is added, that the enemy have been manning with the utmost despatch several of their ships of war which were there, and have pushed them out to sea. How far these facts are true, I cannot determine; but I should think it of infinite importance to ascertain the first, if possible, by sending out swift-sailing cruisers. The most interesting advantages might follow the information. I will try, by every practicable means that I can devise, to obtain an accurate account of the enemy’s fleet at New York.
I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO GOVERNOR TRUMBULL.
Paramus, 14 July, 1778.
I last night received a letter from Congress, informing me of the arrival of a French fleet on our coast, extracts from which I have the honor to enclose. In addition to that information, I have today received intelligence tolerably authentic of its arrival off the Hook. Every thing we can do to aid and coöperate with this fleet is of the greatest importance. Accounts from New York speak of the Cork fleet, which is momently expected there; for the safety of which the enemy are extremely alarmed. It is probable, that this fleet, to avoid the French fleet, will be directed to take its course through the Sound. If this should be the case, it might answer the most valuable purposes, were the eastern States to collect beforehand all the frigates and armed vessels, which they can get together for the purpose, at some convenient place for interrupting their passage that way. If the whole or any considerable part of the Cork fleet could be taken, or destroyed, it would be a fatal blow to the British army, which it is supposed at this time has but a very small stock of provisions on hand. Should the project I have now suggested appear to you eligible, I beg the favor of you to transmit copies of it, and the enclosed extracts, to the neighboring States, and to endeavor to engage thier concurrence. From the nature of the river, even small armed boats may be useful, as the frigates cannot protect the transports. I have the honor to be, with the greatest respect and esteem, &c.
TO COUNT D’ESTAING.
Camp, atParamus, 14th July, 1778.
I take the earliest opportunity to advise you, that I have been informed of your arrival on this coast, with a fleet of Ships under your command, belonging to his Most Christian Majesty, our great ally. I congratulate you, Sir, most sincerely upon this event, and beg leave to assure you of my warmest wishes for your success. The intelligence of your arrival was communicated to me last night by a Letter from the Honble. Mr. Laurens President of the Congress, as you will perceive by the enclosed copy.
With respect to the number or force of the British ships of war in the port of New York, I am so unhappy as not to be able to inform you of either, with the precision I could wish, as they are constantly shifting their stations.1 It is probable, and I hope it is the case, that your advice on this subject, from some captures you may have made, are more certain than those of Congress, or any I can offer. The number of their transports is reported to be extremely great, and I am persuaded that it is. If possible, I will obtain an accurate state of their Ships of war, which I shall do myself the honor of transmitting to you. Before I conclude, I think it proper to acquaint you, that I am now arrived with the main body of the army, immediately under my command, within twenty miles of the North or Hudson’s River, which I mean to pass as soon as possible, about fifty miles above New York.1 I shall then move down before the enemy’s lines, with a view of giving them every jealousy in my power.2 And I further think it proper to assure you, that I shall upon every occasion feel the strongest inclination to facilitate such enterprises, as you may form, and are pleased to communicate to me. I would submit it to your consideration, whether it will not be expedient to establish some conventional signals, for the purpose of promoting an easier correspondence between us, & mutual intelligence.
If you deem it expedient, you will be so obliging as to fix upon them with Lieut. Colo. Laurens, one of my aids, who will have the honor of delivering you this, and of giving you satisfaction in many particulars respecting our affairs, and to whom you may safely confide any measures or information you may wish me to be acquainted with.
I have just received advice, that the Enemy are in daily expectation of a provision fleet from Cork, and that they are under great apprehensions lest it should fall into your hands. You will also permit me to notice, that there is a navigation to New York from the sea, besides the one between Sandy Hook & Long Island. This lies between the latter and the State of Connecticut, is commonly known by the name of the Sound, and is capable of receiving forty-Gun Ships, tho’ the passage within seven miles of the city at a particular place is extremely narrow and difficult.
I have the honor to be, &c.
TO COUNT D’ESTAING.
Camp, atHaverstraw Bay,
I had the honor of receiving, the night of the 14th inst., your very obliging and interesting letter of the 13th dated off Sandy Hook, with the duplicate of another, dated the 8th at Sea.1 The arrival of a fleet, belonging to his Most Christian Majesty on our coast, is an event that makes me truly happy; and permit me to observe, that the pleasure I feel on the occasion is greatly increased by the command being placed in a Gentleman of such distinguished talents, experience, and reputation, as the Count d’Estaing. I am fully persuaded, that every possible exertion will be made by you to accomplish the important purposes of your destination; and you may have the firmest reliance, that my most strenuous efforts shall accompany you in any measure, which may be found eligible. I esteem myself highly honored by the desire you express, with a frankness which must always be pleasing, of possessing a place in my friendship. At the same time allow me to assure you, that I shall consider myself peculiarly happy, if I can but improve the prepossessions you are pleased to entertain in my favor, into a cordial and lasting amity.
On the first notice of your arrival, and previous to the receipt of your letter, I wrote to you by Lt. Colo. Laurens, one of my Aids-De-Camp, whom I charged to explain to you such further particulars, as were not contained in my letter, which might be necessary for your information, and to whom it was my wish you should confide your situation, and views, so far as might be proper for my direction in any measures of concert or coöperation, which may be thought advancive of the common cause. Maj. De Chouin, who arrived this day at my quarters, has given me a very full and satisfactory explanation on this head; and in return I have freely communicated to him my ideas of every matter interesting to our mutual operations. These, I doubt not, he will convey to you, with that perspicuity and intelligence, which he possesses in a manner, that amply justifies the confidence you have reposed in him.1
You would have heard from me sooner in answer to your letter, but I have been waiting for Mr. Chouin’s arrival to acquaint me with your circumstances and intentions, and, at the same time, have been employed in collecting information with respect to several particulars, the knowledge of which was essential to the formation of our plans. The difficulty of doing justice by letter to matters of such variety and importance, as those which now engage our deliberations, has induced me to send Lt. Colo. Hamilton, another of my aids, to you, in whom I place entire confidence. He will be able to make you perfectly acquainted with my sentiments, and to satisfy any inquiries you may think proper to propose; and I would wish you to consider the information he delivers as coming from myself.
Colo. Hamilton is accompanied by Lt. Colo. Fleury, a gentleman of your nation, who has distinguished himself by his zeal and gallantry in the present war with England. He has also with him four captains of Vessels, whom I hope you will find very useful, from their knowledge of the coast and harbors, and two persons, who have acted a considerable time in the capacity of pilots, and in whose skill, expertness, fidelity, from the recommendations I have had, I believe you may place great dependence. I am still endeavoring to provide others of this description, who shall be despatched to you, as fast as they can be found.
With the most ardent desire for your success, and with the greatest respect & esteem, I have the honor to be, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL SULLIVAN.
I have the pleasure to inform you of what you have probably heard before this time, That the Admiral Count d’Estaing has arrived upon the Coast, and now lays off Sandy Hook, with a Fleet of twelve Ships of the line and four Frigates belonging to his Most Christian Majesty. The design of this fleet is to coöperate with the American armies in the execution of any plans, which shall be deemed most advancive of our mutual Interests, against the common Enemy. No particular plan is yet adopted, but two seem to present themselves; either an attack upon New York, or Rhode Island. Should the first be found practicable, our forces are very well disposed for the purpose; but, should the latter be deemed the most eligible, some previous preparations must be made. That we may therefore be ready at all points, and for all events, I desire that you may immediately apply in the most urgent manner, in my name, to the States of Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, and make up a Body of five thousand men inclusive of what you already have. Establish suitable magazines of provisions, and make a collection of Boats proper for a descent. I am empowered to call for the militia for the purpose above mentioned, by a Resolve of Congress of the 11th instant. You will not fail to make yourself fully master of the numbers and position of the Enemy by land, and of their Strength by Sea. Should nothing come of this matter, it will answer this valuable purpose, that the Enemy will be distracted and deceived, and will probably be off their guard in respect to the defence of New York, should that ultimately be our real design.
I have it not in my power to be more explicit with you at present; but, should the expedition against Rhode Island be finally determined upon, you may depend upon having every previous and necessary information for your government.
You should engage a number of Pilots well acquainted with the navigation of the harbor of Newport, and of the adjacent Coast, and have them ready to go on Board upon Signals, which will be thrown out by the French admiral, and of which you will be advised. That you may have the earliest intelligence of his arrival, you should establish a Chain of Expresses from some commanding View upon the Coast to your Quarters. I need not recommend perfect secrecy to you, so far as respects any assistance from the French Fleet. Let your preparations carry all the appearance of dependence upon your own strength only. Lest you may think the number of five thousand men too few for the enterprise, I will just hint to you, that there are French Troops on board the fleet, and some will be detached from this army, should there be occasion.1 I am, &c.
TO JOHN PARKE CUSTIS.
I thank you for your cordial and affectionate congratulations on our late success at Monmouth, and the arrival of the French fleet at the Hook. The first might, I think, have been a glorious day, if matters had begun well in the morning, but, as the court-martial, which has been sitting upward of a month for the trial of General Lee, is not yet over, I do not choose to say anything on the subject, further than that there evidently appeared a capital blunder, or something else, somewhere. The truth, it is to be hoped, will come out after so long an investigation of it. If it had not been for the long passage of the French fleet, which prevented their arrival till after the evacuation of Philadelphia—or the shallowness of the water at the entrance of the harbor at New York, which prevented their getting in there—one of the greatest strokes might have been aimed that ever was; and, if successful, which I think would have been reduced to a moral certainty, the ruin of Great Britain must have followed, as both army and fleet must, undoubtedly, have fallen. Count d’Estaing, with his squadron are now at Rhode Island, to which place I have detached troops, and hope soon to hear of some favorable adventure there, as an attempt will be made upon the enemy at that place.
After the battle of Monmouth, I marched for this place, where I have been encamped more than a fortnight. We cut off, by the present position of the army, all land supplies to the city of New York, and had the best reasons to believe that the troops there were suffering greatly for want of provisions, but the French fleet, leaving the Hook, opens a door to the Sea, through which, no doubt, they will endeavor to avail themselves.
Give my love to Nelly, Colonel Bassett, and the rest of our friends, and be assured that I am, with sincere regard and affection,
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Camp, nearWhite Plains,
Since I had the honor of addressing you on the 14th, I have been favoured with your Letters of the 11th and 17th with their respective enclosures.
The next morning after the receipt of the former, which came to hand on the 17th, I despatched Lt. Colo. Hamilton, another of my Aides, with the best pilots and the most skilful masters of ships, I could procure to Admiral D’Estaing, to converse with him more fully on the subject of his operations, than I was able to direct Lt. Colo. Laurens to do, for want of the information which I afterwards obtained from Major Chouin and a knowledge in several other points besides.
On Sunday night Mr. Laurens returned; and I found by him, that it was the Count’s first wish to enter at Sandy hook, in order to possess himself of, or to destroy if possible, the whole of the British fleet lying in the Bay of New York; and that, for this purpose, he had been much engaged in his inquiries about the depth of water, and in sounding the channel to ascertain it; the result of which was, that the water, from the experiments made, was too shallow at the entrance to admit his large ships; or, if they could be got in, it appeared that it would not be without a great deal of difficulty and risk. After this disappointment, the next important object which seemed to present itself was an attempt against Rhode Island, which the Count inclined to make, unless I should advise the contrary, as soon as the Chimère frigate, which had carried his Excellency Monsieur Gerard into the Delaware, should rejoin him.
Lt.-Colo. Hamilton, who was well informed of our situation and of my sentiments on every point, was instructed to give the Admiral a full and accurate state of facts, and to acquaint him what aid, and how far we could coöperate with him in case of an attempt either against New York or Rhode Island; and also to obtain his ideas of the plan and system, which he might think ought to be pursued, and to agree with him on certain Signals. Previous to my despatching Mr. Hamilton, from the information I received on my inquiries respecting the navigation at the Hook, I was led to suspect, however interesting and desirable the destruction or capture of the British fleet might be, that it was not sufficient to introduce the Count’s ships. Under this apprehension, I wrote to General Sullivan on the 17th by Express, that an Expedition might take place in a short time against Rhode Island, and urged him at the same time to apply to the States of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, & Connecticut for as many men as would augment his force to Five thousand, and also to make every possible preparation of boats, provision, pilots, &c., as if the event was fixed and certain.
From this time till about Twelve O’clock on Sunday, the Troops continued passing the River, when I crossed with the last division. On Monday afternoon I arrived at this place, in the neighborhood of which the right and left wing encamped that night, with the second line a few miles in their rear. And here I am happy to add, that their passage across the river was effected without any accident, or without any more delay than necessarily attended the work.
Being persuaded now from the conversation, which I have had with several pilots and masters of Vessels, of character, as well as from the accounts of other gentlemen, and Colo. Laurens’s report on his return, that the passing of the Count’s ships by the Hook would be extremely precarious, if not impracticable, I determined yesterday, which was as soon as it could be done without waiting for further intelligence upon the subject, to put Two Brigades under marching orders. They accordingly marched this morning at Two o’clock for Rhode Island, under the particular command of Generals Varnum and Glover respectively, and both under the direction, for the present, of the Marquis de Lafayette. A water conveyance was thought of and wished for the ease of the troops; but, on consideration of all circumstances, such as the difficulty of providing vessels, the change and precariousness of the winds, and the risk from the Enemy’s Ships, &c. their route by land was deemed by far the more eligible. The force with General Sullivan, from the best and latest advice I have been able to obtain, is about Three thousand. A Detachment under Colo. Jackson,1 will follow Varnum’s and Glover’s brigades.
The inclosed papers No. 1, reporting eight persons sent from Bennington and ordered into the Enemy’s lines came to hand yesterday. About the same time I received a Letter from Governor Clinton, containing a petition by the Prisoners and a Letter from the Committee of Albany; all remonstrating against the proceeding. As this is a matter, in which I have no authority to act, nor in which I would wish to intermeddle, I take the liberty of referring it to Congress, that they may decide upon it. The prisoners are at West Point and ordered to be detained there for the present.
I would also take the liberty of transmitting to Congress a Letter from Captn. Gibbs, and of recommending him to their consideration. His letter was to have been sent by the Baron Steuben, before we marched from Valley forge, but his declining to go to Yorktown, at that time, and our move thro’ the Jerseys delayed it’s being done. The Captain has been in the army from the commencement of the War, and in the capacities, which he mentions. When Congress were pleased to honor me with the appointment of officers for the sixteen additional Batallions, I offered to make some provision for him, but this he declined, preferring to remain in my family. The Guard he originally commanded, consisted of Fifty men, but since the arrival of Baron Steuben, it has been augmented to a hundred and fifty. The Baron advised that there should be a select corps of this number to receive the manœuvres in the first instance and to act as a model to the Army; and proposed that it should be formed of the old guard company and drafts from the line. I presume, if it should be Congress’s pleasure, a majority would be highly agreeable to the Captain, and that it is as much as he expects.
Eleven o’clock, P. M.—I this moment received a Letter from Colo. Hamilton, who is on his return to the army, dated the 20th, at Black Point. He informs me, that the Count d’Estaing would sail the next evening for Rhode Island, being convinced from actual soundings, that he could not enter the ships. He was anxiously waiting the arrival of the Chimère, but, at all events, meant to sail at the time he mentions. The Admiral has agreed on Signals with Mr. Hamilton. Immediatly after this Letter came to hand, my aid, Mr. Laurens set out for Providence, having many things to communicate to General Sullivan upon the subject of his coöperation, which neither time nor propriety would suffer me to commit to paper. Genl. Sullivan is directed not to confine the number of his Troops to Five thousand, but to augment it, if he shall judge it necessary to ensure his success.
I was informed by Mr. Laurens that the Count D’Estaing’s magazine of bread is not so large as we could wish, and that in the course of a few weeks, he will be in want. This circumstance I thought it right to mention, and I should suppose, that any quantity of Biscuit may be Provided in a little time at Philadelphia.
The Inclosures No. 2, are copies of three Letters from myself to the Admiral. I flatter myself the present of stock, which I directed for him, on his first arrival, in behalf of the States, will be approved by Congress.
The accounts from the Western frontiers of Tryon County are distressing. The spirit of the savages seems to be roused, and they appear determined on mischief and havoc, in every Quarter. By a letter from Governor Clinton of the 21st they have destroyed Springfield and Andreas Town, and are marching towards the settlements on the West branch of the Delaware. These incursions are extremely embarrassing to our other affairs and I think will justify a conclusion that Sr. Henry Clinton’s intention was to operate up the North River. Whether it may have changed with circumstances cannot be determined. I have detached the 4th Pensylvania Regiment and the remains of Morgan’s corps under Lt. Colo. Butler, and also Colo. Graham with a York State regiment, to co-operate with the militia and to check the Indians if possible. Colo. Butler is an enterprising good Officer and well acquainted with the savage mode of warfare; and I am persuaded whatever comes within the compass of his force and abilities, will be done.1
I have, &c.
TO COUNT D’ESTAING.
Head-Quarters, 22d July, 1778.
I this moment received the letter, which you did me the honor of writing by Lt.-Colonel Hamilton. I cannot forbear regretting that the brilliant enterprise, which you at first meditated, was frustrated by physical impossibilities; but hope that something equally worthy of the greatness of your sentiments is still in reserve for you. Upon the report, made to me by Lt.-Col. Laurens, of the depth of the water at Sandy hook, and the Draught of your Ships of the Line, I thought that no time was to be lost in marching a reinforcement to Genl. Sullivan, that he might be in a situation for a vigorous coöperation. I am happy to find, that we coincided so exactly in the importance of this expedition.1
Mr. Laurens, who will have the honor of delivering you this, will inform you of my opinion relative to the stationing of a ship of the line in the Sound, as well as of other particulars, which I have communicated to him. I shall not therefore employ your attention farther than to assure you, that you have inspired me with the same sentiments for you, which you are so good as to entertain for me, and that it will be my greatest happiness to contribute to the service of our great ally in pursuing our common enemy, and to the glory of an officer, who has on every act. so just a claim to it, as the Count d’Estaing.1
The amiable manners of Major Chouin would of themselves entitle him to my esteem, if he had not the best of titles in your recommendation; and I beg you to be assured, that nothing on my part shall be wanting to render his stay in Camp agreeable. At the same time permit me to add, that your great civilities and politeness to my aids cannot but increase my regard, while they serve to give me additional ideas of your worth. I have now only to offer my sincere wishes for your success in this and every Enterprise, and the assurances of the perfect Respect and Esteem, with which I have the honor to be, &c.
TO GOUVERNEUR MORRIS.
White Plains, 24 July, 1778.
Whether you are indebted to me, or I to you, for a letter, I know not, nor is it a matter of much moment. The design of this is to touch, cursorily, upon a subject of very great importance to the well-being of these States; much more so than will appear at first view. I mean the appointment of so many foreigners to offices of high rank and trust in our service.
The lavish manner, in which rank has hitherto been bestowed on these gentlemen, will certainly be productive of one or the other of these two evils, either to make it despicable in the eyes of Europe, or become a means of pouring them in upon us like a torrent, and adding to our present burden. But it is neither the expense nor the trouble of them that I most dread. There is an evil more extensive in its nature, and fatal in its consequences, to be apprehended, and that is, the driving of all our own officers out of the service, and throwing not only our army, but our military councils, entirely into the hands of foreigners.
The officers, my dear Sir, on whom you must depend for the defence of this cause, distinguished by length of service, their connexions, property, and, in behalf of many, I may add, military merit, will not submit much if any longer to the unnatural promotion of men over them, who have nothing more than a little plausibility, unbounded pride and ambition, and a perseverance in application not to be resisted but by uncommon firmness, to support their pretensions; men, who, in the first instance, tell you they wish for nothing more than the honor of serving so glorious a cause as volunteers, the next day solicit rank without pay, the day following want money advanced to them, and in the course of a week want further promotion, and are not satisfied with any thing you can do for them.
When I speak of officers not submitting to these appointments, let me be understood to mean, that they have no more doubt of their right to resign, when they think themselves aggrieved, than they have of a power in Congress to appoint. Both being granted, then, the expediency and the policy of the measure remain to be considered, and whether it is consistent with justice or prudence to promote these military fortune-hunters, at the hazard of your army. They may be divided into three classes, namely, mere adventurers without recommendation, or recommended by persons, who do not know how else to dispose of or provide for them; men of great ambition, who would sacrifice every thing to promote their own personal glory; or mere spies, who are sent here to obtain a thorough knowledge of our situation and circumstances, in the execution of which, I am persuaded, some of them are faithful emissaries, as I do not believe a single matter escapes unnoticed, or unadvised at a foreign court.
I could say a great deal on this subject, but will add no more at present. I am led to give you this trouble at this time, by a very handsome certificate showed to me yesterday in favor of M. Neuville, written (I believe) by himself, and subscribed by General Parsons, designed, as I am informed, for a foundation of the superstructure of a brigadiership.
Baron Steuben, I now find, is also wanting to quit his inspectorship for a command in the line. This will be productive of much discontent to the brigadiers. In a word, although I think the Baron an excellent officer, I do most devoutly wish, that we had not a single foreigner among us, except the Marquis de Lafayette, who acts upon very different principles from those which govern the rest. Adieu. I am, most sincerely yours, &c.
P. S. This letter as you will perceive is written with the freedom of a friend. Do not therefore make me enemies by publishing what is intended for your own information & that of particular friends.
TO HENRY LAURENS.
Camp, nearWhite Plains,
I had yesterday the pleasure to receive your favor of the 18th instant, with the enclosure and packets which you mentioned.
I should have been sorry, if you or Monsieur Gerard had found the smallest difficulty in recommending the packets for the Count d’Estaing to my care; and I am happy to inform you, that they will meet with a speedy and safe conveyance to him by an officer, who has set off for Rhode Island.
It is very pleasing as well as interesting to hear, that prizes are already finding their way into the Delaware. The event seems the more agreeable, as that navigation, but yesterday as it were, could scarcely contain the enemy’s fleet and their numerous captures, which were constantly crowding in. Happy change! and I should hope, that the two prizes, which have entered, will be succeeded by many more. The want of information, on the one hand of Philadelphia’s being evacuated, and the countenance which our armed vessels will derive from the French squadron on our coasts must throw several into our possession.
The second epistle from the commissioners, of which you have so obligingly favored me with a copy, strikes me in the same point of view that it did you. It is certainly puerile; and does not border a little on indecorum, notwithstanding their professions of the regard they wish to pay to decency. It is difficult to determine on an extensive scale, tho’ part of their design is tolerably obvious, what the gentlemen would be at. Had I the honor of being a member of Congress, I do not know how I might feel upon the occasion; but it appears to me the performance must be received with a sort of indignant pleasantry, on account of its manner on the one hand, and on the other as being truly typical of that confusion in which their prince and nation are.1
By the time this reaches you, I expect the Messieurs Neuville2 will be in Philadelphia. From the certificates these gentlemen have provided, if I may hazard a conjecture, they are in quest of promotion, particularly the elder. How far their views may extend, I cannot determine; but I dare predict, that they will be sufficiently high. My present intention is to tell you, and with freedom I do it, that Congress cannot be well too cautious on this head. I do not mean or wish to derogate from the merit of Messieurs Neuville. The opportunities I have had will not permit me to speak decisively for or against it. However, I may observe, from a certificate which I have seen, written by themselves, or at least by one of them, and signed by General Parsons, probably through surprise or irresolution, that they are not bad at giving themselves a good character; and I will further add, if they meet with any great promotion, I am fully convinced it will be ill borne by our own officers, and that it will be the cause of infinite discontent. The ambition of these men (I do not mean of the Messrs. Neuville in particular, but of the natives of their country and foreigners in general) is unlimited and unbounded; and the similar instances of rank, which have been conferred upon them in but too many cases, have occasioned general dissatisfaction and general complaint. The feelings of our own officers have been much hurt by it, and their ardor and love for the service greatly damped. Should a like proceeding still be practised, it is not easy to say what extensive murmurings and consequences may ensue. I will further add, that we have already a full proportion of foreign officers in our general councils; and, should their number be increased, it may happen upon many occasions, that their voices may be equal if not exceed the rest. I trust you think me so much a citizen of the world, as to believe I am not easily warped or led away by attachments merely local or American; yet I confess I am not entirely without ’em, nor does it appear to me that they are unwarrantable, if confined within proper limits. Fewer promotions in the foreign line would have been productive of more harmony, and made our warfare more agreeable to all parties. The frequency of them is the source of jealousy and of disunion. We have many, very many, deserving officers, who are not opposed to merit wheresoever it is found, nor insensible to the advantages derived from a long service in an experienced army, nor to the principles of policy. Where any of these principles mark the way to rank, I am persuaded they yield a becoming and willing acquiescence; but, where they are not the basis, they feel severely. I will dismiss the subject, knowing that with you I need not labor, either in a case of justice or of policy. I am, &c.
P. S. The Baron Steuben will also be in Philadelphia in a day or two. The ostensible cause for his going is to fix more certainly with Congress his duties as inspector-general, which is necessary. However, I am disposed to believe that the real one is to obtain an actual command in the line as a major-general, and he may urge a competition set up by Monsieur Neuville for the inspector’s place on this side of the Hudson, and the denial by him of the Baron’s authority, as an argument to effect it, and the granting him the post, as a mean of satisfying both. I regard and I esteem the Baron, as an assiduous, intelligent, and experienced officer; but you may rely on it, if such is his view, and he should accomplish it, we shall have the whole line of brigadiers in confusion. They have said but little about his rank as major-general, as he has not had an actual command over ’em. But when we marched from Brunswic, as there were but few major-generals, and almost the whole of the brigadiers engaged at the court-martial, either as members or witnesses, I appointed him pro tempore, and so expressed it in orders, to conduct a wing to the North River. This measure, though founded in evident necessity, and not designed to produce to the brigadiers the least possible injury, excited great uneasiness, and has been the source of complaint. The truth is, we have been very unhappy in a variety of appointments, and our own officers much injured. Their feelings, from this cause, have become extremely sensitive, and the most delicate touch gives them pain. I write as a friend, and therefore with freedom. The Baron’s services in the line he occupies can be singular, and the testimonials he has already received are honorable. It will also be material to have the point of the inspector-generalship, now in question between him and Monsieur Neuville, adjusted. The appointment of the latter, it is said, calls him Inspector-general in the army commanded by General Gates, and under this, as I am informed, he denies any subordination to the Baron, and will not know him in his official capacity. There can be but one head. With sentiments of warm regard and esteem, I am, &c.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
The Baron de Steuben will have the honor of delivering you this. I am extremely sorry, that this gentleman’s situation and views seem to have determined him to quit the service, in which he has been heretofore and is capable still of being extensively useful. Some discontents, which arose among the officers on account of the powers with which the office was at first vested, induced me to arrange the duties of it on a plan different from that in which it began. The moving state of the army has for some time past, in a great degree, suspended the exercise of the Inspectorate. When the Troops marched from Brunswic, the scarcity of General officers, most of them being engaged with the Court-martial, either as members or Witnesses, occasioned my giving the Baron a temporary command of a Division during the march. On our arrival near our present encampment, I intended he should relinquish this charge, and resume his former office, for which purpose a General Order was accordingly issued. But I find that he is entirely disinclined to the measure, and resolves not to continue in the Service unless he can hold an actual command in the line.
Justice concurring with inclination constrains me to testify, that the Baron has in every instance discharged the several trusts reposed in him with great Zeal and Ability, so as to give him the fullest title to my esteem, as a brave, indefatigable, judicious, and experienced officer. I regret there should be a necessity, that his Services should be lost to the army; at the same time I think it my duty explicitly to observe to Congress, that his desire of having an actual and permanent command in the line cannot be complied with, without wounding the feelings of a number of officers, whose rank and merit give them every claim to attention; and that the doing it would be productive of much dissatisfaction and extensive ill consequences. This does not proceed from any personal objections on the part of those officers against the Baron; on the contrary, most of them, whom I have heard speak of him, express a high sense of his military worth. It proceeds from motives of another nature, which are too obvious to need particular explanation, or may be summed up in this, that they conceive such a step would be injurious to their essential rights and just expectations. That this would be their way of thinking upon the subject, I am fully convinced, from the effect which the temporary command given him, even under circumstances so peculiar as those I have mentioned, produced. The strongest symptoms of discontent appeared upon the occasion.
I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE.
This will be delivered to you by Major-General Greene, whose thorough knowledge of Rhode Island, of which he is a native, and the influence he will have with the people, put it in his power to be particularly useful in the expedition against that place; as well in providing necessaries for carrying it on, as in assisting to form and execute a plan of operations proper for the occasion. The honor and interest of the common cause are so deeply concerned in the success of this enterprise, that it appears to me of the greatest importance to omit no step, which may conduce to it; and General Greene on several accounts will be able to render very essential services in the affair.
These considerations have determined me to send him on the expedition, in which as he could not with propriety act nor be equally useful merely in his official capacity of Quarter Master-General, I have concluded to give him a command in the troops to be employed in the descent. I have therefore directed General Sullivan to throw all the American troops, both Continental, State, and Militia, into two divisions, making an equal distribution of each, to be under the immediate command of General Greene and yourself. The Continental troops being divided in this manner with the Militia, will serve to give them confidence, and probably make them act better than they would alone. Though this arrangement will diminish the number of Continental troops under you, yet this diminution will be more than compensated by the addition of militia; and I persuade myself your command will not be less agreeable, or less honorable, from this change in the disposition. I am, with great esteem and affection, dear Marquis, your most obedient servant.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL SULLIVAN.
I have been favd. with yours of the 27th 10 o’clock, a.m. Upon opening of it, I was much disappointed at not hearing of Count d’Estaing’s arrival, who I hope will have made his appearance off the harbor of Newport before this time, as a reinforcement passed Mamaronec the day before yesterday morning.1 I wish it had been in my power to spare a larger detachment of Continental Troops; but remember I am left near the Enemy, with a Force inferior to theirs upon New York and the adjacent Islands. I am much pleased with the account of the readiness which you were in, to begin operations, as soon as the Count and the Marquis should arrive; and I flatter myself, that you will receive no small assistance from Genl. Greene, in the department of quartermaster-general as well as in the military line.2
As you have mentioned the matter of carrying the Enemy’s works by storm, and have submitted it to my consideration and advice, I will only say, that as I would not, on the one hand, wish to check the ardor of our Troops, so I would not, on the other, put them upon attempting what I thought they could not carry but with a moral certainty of success. You know the discipline of our men and officers very well, and I hope you, and the General Officers under your command, will weigh every desperate matter well before it is carried into execution. A severe check may ruin the expedition, while regular and determined approaches may effect the work, tho’ perhaps they may take something longer time. Upon the whole, I will not undertake at this distance to give orders. I submit every thing to your prudence, and to the good advice of those about you. You have my sincere wishes for your success, as I am, yours, &c.
P. S. By a letter from the officer of the Mamaroneck Guard he does not seem certain that the Vessel which went thro’ the Sound the day before yesterday had troops on Board, at least any considerable number.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL ARNOLD.
Your two agreeable favors of the 19 and 22 ulto. came to hand which I now have to acknowledge.
I am very happy to learn, that your wounds are less painful, and in so fair a way of doing well. The only drawback in the pleasure we receive is, that the condition of your wounds is still such, as not to admit of your active services this campaign. You will rest assured, that I wish to see you in a situation where you can be of the greatest advantage, and where abilities like yours may not be lost to the public; but I confess myself no competent judge in marine matters to offer advice on a subject so far out of my line; believe me tho’ that it is my desire, that you may determine, in this case, in a manner most conducive to your health, honor, and Interest.
I am, dear Sir, &c.1
TO THE BOARD OF WAR.
I had the honor of receiving your favor of the 27th ulto., on the 1st instant, inclosing sundry resolves of Congress, and other papers respecting two expeditions meditated into the Indian country, one from the southward, and the other from the northward. Since the receipt of it, I have been endeavoring to collect the necessary information concerning the means already provided or to be provided towards prosecuting the latter; and I sincerely wish our prospects were more agreeable to the views of Congress than they are; but after examining the matter from every point of light, I am sorry to say an enterprise of this nature, at the present time under our present circumstances, appears to me liable to obstacles not easily to be surmounted.
On receiving your letter I wrote to General Gates; copies of mine to him and of his answer to me are inclosed. I do not find that any preparations have been made for the intended expedition; if the project should be continued almost every thing is still to be done. The Board will perceive that General Gates imagined it was laid aside.
Gov. Clinton happening to be in camp, I took occasion to consult him and General Gates jointly on the affair. They both concurred fully in the opinion, that a serious attempt to penetrate the Seneca settlements at this advanced season, and under present appearances, was by no means advisable, would be attended with many certain difficulties and inconveniences, and must be of precarious success. The reasons for this opinion are in my judgment conclusive.
Supposing the enemy’s force is fifteen or sixteen hundred men (according to the estimate of the Board, accounts make it larger); to carry the war into the interior part of their country, with that probability of succeeding which would justify the undertaking, would require not less than three thousand men; and if the attempt is made, it ought to be made with such a force as will in a manner insure the event, for a failure could not but have the most pernicious tendency. From inquiries I have made, not more than about twelve hundred militia from the frontier counties could be seasonably engaged for a sufficient length of time to answer the purpose of the expedition; little or no assistance can be looked for from the people of the Grants, who are said to be under great alarm for their own security, which they think is every moment in danger of being disturbed by way of Choas. The deficiency must be made up in Continental troops; and as there are only four or five hundred already in that quarter, who might be made use of on this occasion, the residue must go immediately from this army. The making so considerable a detachment at this time, is, I conceive, a measure that could not be hazarded, without doing essential injury to our affairs here.
Of this the Board will be fully sensible, when they are informed, that the enemy’s strength at New York and its dependencies is, at a moderate computation, 14,000 men; our strength on the present ground less than 13,000. Besides this number, only a bare sufficiency has been left in the Highlands to garrison the forts there. We have been lately reduced by a large detachment to Rhode Island, and it is possible a further detachment may become necessary. Should we weaken ourselves still more by an enterprise against the Indians, we leave ourselves in some degree at the mercy of the enemy, and should either choice or necessity induce them to move against us, the consequences may be disagreeable. Though there is great reason to suppose the enemy may wish to withdraw their force from these States, if they can do it with safety; yet if they find their departure obstructed by a superior maritime force, it may become a matter of necessity to take the field, and endeavor at all hazards, to open a communication with the country, in order to draw supplies from it and protract their ruin. This they will of course effect, if we have not an equal or superior army in the field to oppose them with. We should endeavor to keep ourselves so respectable as to be proof against contingencies.
The event of the Rhode Island expedition is still depending; if it should fail, we shall probably lose a number of men in the attempt. To renew it, if practicable, we should be obliged to send reinforcements from this army, which could very ill be spared with its present strength; but would be impossible, if it were diminished by a detachment for the Indian expedition. And then should the enemy unite their force, they would possess so decisive a superiority, as might involve us in very embarrassing circumstances. If, on the contrary, we succeed at Rhode Island, a variety of probable cases may be supposed with reference to European affairs, which may make it extremely interesting to the common cause that we should have it in our power to operate with vigor against the enemy in this quarter; to do which, if it can be done at all, will at least require our whole force.
These considerations sufficiently evince that we cannot detach from this army the force requisite for the expedition proposed, without material detriment to our affairs here. And comparing the importance of the objects here, with the importance of the objects of that expedition, it can hardly be thought eligible to pursue the latter at the expence of the former. The depredations of the savages on our frontiers, and the cruelties exercised on the defenceless inhabitants, are certainly evils much to be deplored, and ought to be guarded against, as far as may be done consistent with proper attention to matters of higher moment; but they are evils of a partial nature, which do not directly affect the general security, and consequently can only claim a secondary attention. It would be highly impolitic to weaken our operations here, or hazard the success of them to prevent temporary inconveniences elsewhere.
But there are other objections to the measure of almost equal weight. The season is too far advanced for the enterprise. To raise and collect the troops, to lay up competent magazines, and to make other needful preparations necessary, and then to march to the Seneca settlements and back again would exhaust at least five months from this time; and the rivers would be impracticable before it could be effected. This time will not be thought too long, if it is considered, that the preparations of every kind are yet to be begun; and that when completed an extent of more than three hundred miles is to be traversed, through a country wild and unexplored, the greater part hostile, and full of natural impediments. The rivers too at this time of the year are more shallow than at others which would be an additional source of difficulty and delay. I shall say little on the subject of provisions, though, it is a serious question, whether our resources are so far equal to our demands, that we can well spare so extensive supplies as this expedition will consume. Besides feeding our own troops, we shall probably soon have to victual the French Fleet which is said to have twelve thousand men on board.
Notwithstanding the opinion I entertain of this matter, founded upon a knowledge of many circumstances which Congress could not be fully apprised of, in obedience to their orders, I shall without delay take measures for forming magazines at Albany and upon the Mohawk River, and for preparing every thing else for the expedition, except calling out the militia, and shall be glad of the further directions of Congress as speedily as possible. If it is their pleasure that it should still go on, I shall apply for an aid of militia and can soon march the detachment of troops which must be sent from this army.
I take the liberty however to offer it as my opinion, that the plan for subduing the unfriendly Indians ought to be deferred till a moment of greater leisure. We have a prospect that the British army will ere long be necessitated either to abandon the possessions they now hold and quit these States, or perhaps to do something still more disgraceful. If either should arrive, the most effectual way to chastise the Indians, and disarm them for future mischief, will be to make an expedition into Canada. By penetrating as far as Montreal, they fall of course, destitute of suppplies for continuing their hostilities, and of support to stimulate their enmity. This would strike at once at the root, the other would only lop off a few branches, which would soon spread out anew, nourished and sustained by the remaining trunk.
Instead of the expedition resolved upon, it might be advisable to establish a well furnished garrison of about three hundred continental troops somewhere near the head of the Susquehanna, at Unadilla, or in the vicinity of that place, and at the same time to establish a good post at Wyoming, with some small intermediate post. These posts would be a great security to the frontiers; and would not only serve as barriers against the irruptions of the savages, but with the occasional aid of the militia would be convenient for making little inroads upon their nearest settlements; and might facilitate a more serious enterprise when it shall be judged expedient. I shall be glad of the sentiments of Congress on this proposition.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
I do myself the honor of transmitting to Congress a copy of a Letter from General Knox, and of sundry observations and remarks on the Ordnance establishment, of the 11th of Feby., which I received about the time we marched from Valley Forge. These would have been transmitted before, had it not been for the moving state of the army, and a variety of other Objects which engrossed my attention. We have found by experience, that some inconveniences have resulted from the establishment, which I conceive, have proceeded principally from the total independence of the Commissary General of Military stores, on the Commanding Officer of Artillery. It seems some alterations are necessary and what they shall be, Congress will be pleased to determine.
It is not without reluctance that I am constrained, to renew my importunities on the subject of the Committee of Arrangement. The present unsettled state of the Army, is productive of so much disatisfaction and of such a variety of disputes, that almost the whole of my time is now employed, in finding temporary and inadequate expedients to quiet the minds of Officers and keep business on a tolerable sort of footing. Not an hour passes without new applications and new complaints about rank—and for want of a proper adjustment of this and many other essential points, our affairs are in a most irksome and injurious train. We can scarcely form a Court Martial or parade a detachment in any instance, without a warm discussion on the subject of precedence, and there are several Good Officers now, who are forced to decline duty, to prevent disputes and their being commanded by others, who upon every principle are their Inferiors; unless their having obtained Commissions before them, from the opportunities they had of making earlier applications from local circumstances, should be considered sufficient, to give them a superior claim. There are many other causes of dissatisfaction on this head, but I will not enter into a minute relation of them. I sincerely wish, that the Gentlemen appointed, or such others as Congress may think proper to nominate for the occasion, would immediately repair to Camp. The present opportunity is favorable for reducing matters to system and order—and from painful experience I know, there is an absolute necessity for it.
I should also hope, that Congress will excuse me for mentioning again the necessity there is for appointing some Brigadiers. The Massachusetts, by the resignation of General Learned, wants one—Pensylvania, as General Hand is not here, has but one with the Army—Maryland, which has two large Brigades in the field, has only General Smallwood; and the North Carolina troops, since the departure of Genl. McIntosh, have been without any. As I had taken the liberty, upon a former occasion, to offer my sentiments to Congress and their Committee upon this subject, I should not trouble them now if I was not more & more convinced that the service required promotions in this line. The frequent changes which take place among the officers where there are no Brigadiers, are attended with great inconvenience and detriment; and they are an effectual bar to the introduction of discipline. In such cases, the Officers know, that their command is but temporary—always liable to cease—and therefore they do not find themselves sufficiently interested to promote order and subordination;—nor will the rest look up to them with that respect and deference which are essential. Every day’s experience proves this—and shews beyond question that the affairs of a Brigade can never be in a right train without a Brigadier, or some General to direct them. It is certain, these appointments at the first view, will add a little to the list of expence, but in the end they will be a great saving—and produce many important advantages. We are also a good deal distressed at this time for Major Generals; however, as this arises more from the peculiar circumstances and situation of many, which prevent them from duty in the line, than from a deficiency in the number appointed, I shall not add upon the occasion.
There is another branch of the Army which in my opinion calls loudly for the appointment of a General Officer—and this is the Cavalry. For want of a proper regulating Head in this Corps, the whole has been in confusion, and of but very little service; whereas under a right management it might be most useful. The principal Officers in it do not harmonise, which circumstance with their disputes about rank would, were there no other Objections, effectually prevent the Corps from rendering the Public the services they have a right to expect—and of which it should be capable. To promote any Gentleman now in it to a general command, would not be acquiesced in by the rest (nor do I know that any of them wish it) and it would increase their misunderstanding and of course disorder. I mean to draw all the Horse immediately together, when I trust they will be under the direction of a General Officer, appointed by Congress for the purpose. Who he shall be, will remain solely with them to determine. However I will take the liberty to add, that he should be intelligent—active—attentive, and as far as I can judge General Cadwalader or General Reed would fill the post with great honor and advantage—tho’ it would seem from the seat the latter has taken in Congress, and from his late appointment to the Council of Pensylvania, as if he had declined every Military vie[w]. The abilities of these Gentlemen, as well as their atta[ch]ment, are generally known, and I am led to believe that either would be as acceptable to the Corps, as any person that can be found;—indeed I have learned as much from two of the Colonels.
I have been waiting with the most impatient anxiety to hear of Count D’Estaing’s arrival at Rhode Island, but as yet I have not been so happy. My last intelligence from there is a Letter from Genl. Sullivan dated at 10 o’clock in the forenoon of the 27th when he had no advice of the Fleet. He was in high spirits and from the preparation in which matters were, he entertained the most flattering hopes of success in the intended Enterprize. The Brigades of Varnum and Glover, with Jackson’s detachment, would arrive I expect on the 2d Inst.
As the army was encamped and there was no great prospect of a sudden removal, I judged it adviseable to send Genl. Greene to the Eastward on Wednesday last; being fully persuaded his services, as well in the Quartermaster line, as in the field, would be of material importance, in the expedition against the Enemy in that quarter. He is intimately acquainted with the whole of that Country, and besides he has an extensive interest and influence in it. And in justice to General Greene, I take occasion to observe, that the public is much indebted to him for his judicious management and active exertions in his present department. When he entered upon it he found it in a most confused—distracted and destitute state. This by his conduct and industry has undergone a very happy change, and such as enabled us with great facility, to make a sudden move with the whole army & baggage from Valley forge in pursuit of the Enemy, and to perform a march to this place. In a word he has given the most general satisfaction and his affairs carry much the face of method and system.—I also consider it as an act of justice, to speak of the conduct of Colo. Wadsworth, Commissary General. He has been indefatigable in his exertions to provide for the Army, and since his appointment our supplies of provision have been good and ample.
August 4th. At 7 o’clock in the Evening yesterday, I received the inclosed Letter from Genl. Sullivan, with one addressed to myself, a copy of which I do myself the pleasure of forwarding. I am exceedingly happy in the Count’s arrival—and that things wear so pleasing an aspect.
There is another subject, on which I must take the liberty of addressing Congress,—which is that of the Cloathier’s department. I am perfectly satisfied that unless this very important and interesting Office is put under better regulations and under a different Head than it now is, the Army will never be cloathed. Mr. Mease is by no means fit for the business. It is a work of immense difficulty to get him to Camp upon any occasion—and no order can retain him there sufficiently long—either to answer the demands of the Troops, or to acquire more than a very slight and imperfect knowledge of them. This of itself, according to my ideas, would make him highly culpable—but there are other circumstances. He is charged with inactivity, in not pursuing the best and all the means that present themselves, to provide Cloathing. His Agents too, who have been with the Army, from inability or a want of industry—or proper instructions from their principal, have been very incompetent to the purposes of their appointment. Besides these objections, Mr. Mease unhappily is represented to be of a very unaccommodating cast of temper and his general deportment towards the Officers who have had to transact business with him, has rendered himself exceedingly obnoxious. The constant and daily complaints against him, make it my indispensible duty to mention these points—and it is the more so, as I believe both Officers and Men, particularly the latter, have suffered greater inconveniences and distresses, than Soldiers ever did before for want of Cloathing; and that this has not flowed more from a real scarcity of articles, than a want of proper exertions and provident management to procure them. It is essential that something should be done, and immediately, to place the department on a better footing. We have now a great many men entirely destitute of Shirts and Breeches and I suppose not less than a fourth or fifth of the whole here who are without shoes. From the deficiencies in this line numbers of desertions have proceeded, not to mention deaths, and what is still worse, the Troops which remain and see themselves in rags want that spirit and pride necessary to constitute a Soldier.
I have been informed by several Officers and by such as I can depend on, that many of the late Draughts are willing and desirous of enlisting during the War. I do not conceive myself at liberty to give direction on the point and therefore submit it to Congress to decide. However, if they can be engaged for the usual bounties allowed by the Continent, after proper precautions are taken to prevent fraud, I think the measure will be expedient. It is true our Affairs have an agreable aspect at present—but the War may continue and we want men. A third of the time of some of them, and a half in the case of others, is already expired; and, as they will rise in their views and become more difficult in proportion as their service draws to a conclusion, if the step is considered adviseable, the sooner we attempt to enlist the better in all probability will the work succeed. I have, &c.
TO JOHN PARKE CUSTIS.
White Plains, 3 August, 1778.
Your Letter of the 15th ulto. from New Kent came to my hands by the last Post and gave me the pleasure of hearing that you, Nelly & the little ones were well.
You should not delay recording my Deed to you, because you cannot I am told, make a proper conveyance to Henry till this happens, the postponing of it therefore, may not be a pleasing circumstance to him.—As you seemed so desirous of living in Fairfax—as I know it will be an agreeable measure to your Mother—and a pleasing one to me, I am very glad to find that you have purchased Robt. & Gerrd. Alexander’s Lands, as they are pleasantly situated and capable of great improvement.—These two Gentn. not only knew how to take advantage of the times but resolved to profit by them and here, early & in time—as a friend & one who has your welfare at heart;—let me entreat you to consider the consequences of paying compound Interest.—Your having 24 yrs. to pay Mr. Robt. Alexander without his having it in his power to call upon you for any part of the principal or Interest, is in my judgment an unfortunate circumstance for you—a Dun now and then might serve as a monitor to remind you of the evil tendency of paying compound Interest, and the fatal consequence which may result from letting a matter of this sort sleep. Without it you may be plunged into a most enormous debt without thinking of it, or giving that timely attention, which the importance of it is requisite. I presume you are not unacquainted with the fact of £12,000 at compound Interest amounting to upward of £48,000 in twenty-four years. Reason therefore must convince you that unless you avert the evil by a deposit of the like sum in the loan office—and there hold it sacred to the purpose of accumulating Interest in the same proportion you pay, that you will have abundant cause to repent it. No Virginia Estate (except a very few under the best of management) can stand simple Interest; how then can they bear compound Interest—You may be led away with Ideal profits—you may figure great matters to yourself to arise from this, that, or t’other scheme, but depend upon it they will only exist in the imagination, and that year after year will produce nothing but disappointment and new hopes—these will waste time, whilst your Interest is accumg. and the period approaching when you will be called upon, unprepared perhaps, to advance 4 times the original purchase money. Remember therefore, that as a friend I call upon you with my advice to shun this rock by depositing the sum you are to pay Alexander, in the loan office—let it be considered as Alexander’s money & sacred to that use and that only, for if you shd. be of opinion that pay day being a great way off will give you time enough to provide for it, & consequently to apply your present cash to other uses, it does not require the gift of prophecy to predict the sale of the purchased Estate or some other to pay for it.
After this dissertation upon a subject which perhaps you may think I have no business now to intermeddle in, I shall approve your proposal for selling the Lands mentioned in your Letter to me, provided you can get an adequate price. But one circumstance should not be forgotten by you in these transactions, and that is that your Lands will go but a little way in the purchase of others, if you sell at three or four pounds an acre and give twelve: after this remark I shall only add, that if Mrs. Washington has no objections to your selling her thirds in your Lands about Williamsburg or elsewhere, I have not. The loan office Interest of whatever sum they fetch, I shall be content to receive whilst I have any concern in it; and your Mother, if she should be the survivor, consenting to do the same, removes every impediment & difficulty to yr. selling, and places the matter in my opinion upon a fair, just and equitable footing, as you will have the principal if you choose it, paying the Interest or may deposit in the loan office, to raise the Interest there (if more desirable) during her life when the whole will revert to you as the Land would do.
As you seem so well disposed to live in Fairfax and have now fixed the matter by your late purchases of the Alexanders, I should, were I in your place, extend my Ideas & views further than you have done, that is over & above the sale of the Eastern shore. Williamsburg & Hanover Lands, with the Lotts in the City, I would sell, or exchange, the whole below—for depend upon it, that whilst you live in Fairfax you will get very little benefit from an Estate in New Kent or King William, unless you have much better luck than most who have Plantations at a distance.
When I advise selling, I would no[t] be understood to mean at all hazards,—I would try in the first place, what I could get for my own Lands without bargaining for them unless it was conditionally.—I would then see whether some large Tracts of Land (not leased out) could not be had in Fairfax, Loudoun, Fauquier, Berkeley or Frederick, or on the Maryland side of the Potomack, and upon what terms they could be purchased, you will then from a comparative view be a judge of the propriety of selling your own & buying others, or holding fast what you have—Among those who holds large Tracts in Fairfax are the Fitzhughs, Mr. B. Fairfax, &c. In Loudoun & Fauquier, The Carters (who probably would be glad to exchange), the Lees, Turbervilles, Pages, Burwells &c.—Most of these being lowlanders, I think it not improbable but that bargains may be had of them, either by purchase or exchange.
With candor I have given you my opinion upon the several matters contained in your Letter.—If it is faulty, it proceeds from error in judgment not from the want of attachment—affection to you, or honest sincerity and is open to correction. I am, &c.
TO COUNT D’ESTAING.
I had the honor last night of receiving your favor of the 3d instant. I most sincerely sympathize with you in the regret you feel at the obstacles and difficulties you have heretofore encountered. Your case has certainly been a case of peculiar hardship; but you justly have the consolation, which arises from a reflection, that no exertions possible have been wanting in you to ensure success, the most ample and adequate to your wishes and to the important expectations from your command. The disappointments you have experienced proceed from circumstances, which no human foresight or activity can controul. None can desire more ardently than I do, that the future may compensate for the past, and that your efforts may be crowned with the full success they deserve.
I have just received a letter from Brigadier-General Maxwell, who is stationed in the Jerseys near Staten Island, dated yesterday at nine o’clock in the forenoon. Enclosed are extracts from it, which contain very interesting information.1 The terms made use of are so positive and express, that it is natural to conclude the intelligence is well founded. Its importance induces me to lose no time in communicating it. What may be the real design of this movement can only be the subject of conjecture. Unless the fleet may have received advice of a reinforcement on the coast, which it is gone to join, with intention to bend their united force against you, it can scarcely be supposed that Lord Howe will be hardy enough to make any serious attempt with his present inferiority of strength. If he should, it can only be accounted for on the principle of desperation, stimulated by a hope of finding you divided in your operations against Rhode Island. This, however, is a very probable supposition. It is more likely he may hope, by making demonstrations towards you, to divert your attention from Rhode Island, and afford an opportunity to withdraw their troops and frustrate the expedition we are carrying on. I shall not trouble you with any further conjectures, as I am persuaded you will be able to form a better judgment than I can of his intentions, and of the conduct it will be proper to pursue in consequence.
In order to aid in removing the inconveniences you sustain in the article of water, and relieve the sufferings of the brave officers and men under your command, whose patience and perseverance cannot be too highly commended, I have written to Governor Trumbull of the State of Connecticut, requesting his endeavors to collect vessels and load them with water at New London for the use of your fleet. I shall be happy if this application is productive of the desired effect. I send you a New York paper of the 5th, which is not unworthy of attention. Allow me to assure you of the warm respect and regard, with which I have the honor to be, &c.
TO LUND WASHINGTON.1
White Plains, 15 August, 1778.
Your Letter of the 29th Ulto. Inclosing a line from Captn. Marshall to you came to my hands yesterday.—I have no reason to doubt the truth of your observation, that this Gentleman’s Land & others equally well situated, & under like circumstances, will sell very high. The depreciation of our money—the high prices of every article of produce, & the redundancy of circulating paper will, I am persuaded have an effect upon the price of land, nor is it to be wondered at when a Barrl. of Corn which used to sell for 10/, will now fetch 40—when a Barl. of Porke that formerly could be had for £3, sells for £15, & so with respect to other articles which serves to enable the man who has been fortunate enough to succeed in raising these things to pay accordingly; but, unfortunately for me, this is not my case, as my Estate in Virginia is scarce able to support itself whilst it is not possible for it to derive any benefit from my labors here.
I have premised these things to shew my inability, not my unwillingness to purchase the Lands in my own Neck at (almost) any price—& this I am yet very desirous of doing if it could be accomplished by any means in my power, in ye way of Barter for other Land—for Negroes (of whom I every day long more & more to get clear of,) or in short—for any thing else (except Breeding Mares and Stock of other kinds) which I have in my possession; but for money I cannot, I want the means.—Marshall’s Land alone, at the rate he talks of would amount to (if my memory of the quantity he holds, is right) upwards of £3,000—a sum I have little chance, if I had much inclination, to pay; & therefore would not engage it, as I am resolved not to incumber myself with Debt.
Marshall is not a necessitous man, is only induced to offer his Land for sale, in expectation of a high price—& knowing perhaps but for wch. my wish to become possessed of the Land in what Neck, will practise every deception in his power to work me (or you in my behalf) up to his price, or he will not sell,—this should be well looked into and guarded against.—If as you think & as I believe, there is little chance of getting more—(at any rate) than the reversion of French’s Land, I have no objection to the Land on which Morris lives going in exchange for Marshall’s, or its being sold for the purpose of paying for it, but remember, it will not do to contract at a high price for the one, before you can be assured of an adequate sum for the other—without this, by means of the arts which may be practised, you may give much and receive little, which is neither my Inclination nor intention to do.—If Negroes could be given in exchange for this Land of Marshall’s, or sold at a proportionable price, I should prefer it to the sale of Morris’s Land as I still have some latent hope that French’s Lands may be had of D.—for it.—but either I wd. part with.—
Having so fully expressed my Sentiments concerning this matter, I shall only add a word or two respecting Barry’s Land.—The same motives which induce a purchase in the one case prevail in the other, and how ever unwilling I may be to part with that small tract I hold on difficult Run (containing by Deed, if I recollect right 275 acres, but by measurement upwards of 300), on acct. of the valuable Mill Seat, Meadow Grds. &cc., yet I will do it for the sake of the other; but if the matter is not managed with some degree of address you will not be able to effect an exchange without giving instead of receiving, Boot. For this Land also I had rather give Negroes—if Negroes would do, for to be plain I wish to get quit of Negroes.
I find by a Letter from Mr. Jones that he has bought the Phaeton which you sold Mr. Geo. Lewis and given him £300 for it—I mention this, with no other view than to remind you of the necessity of getting the money for wch. you sold it, of Lewis, (if you have not already done it)—He, probably, will propose to settle the matter with me, but this, for a reason I could mention, I desire may be avoided.
In your Letter of the 29th you say you do not suppose I would choose to cut down my best Land, & build Tobo. Houses, but what am I to do—or how am I to live.—I cannot support myself if I make nothing—& it is evident from yr. acct. that I cannot raise wheat if this crop is likely to share the fate of the three last. I should have less reluctance to clearing my richest Lands (for I think the Swamps are these and would afterwards do for meadow) than building Houses.
I should not incline to sell the Land I had of Adams unless it should be for a price proportioned to what I must give for others. I could wish you to press my tenants to be punctual in the payment of their Rents; right & justice with respect to myself requires it, & no injury, on the contrary a real service to themselves, as the man who finds it difficult to pay one rent will find it infinitely more so to pay two, & his distresses multiply as the rents increase. I am, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Since I had the honor of addressing you to-day by Captain Riley, I received a Letter from General Sullivan, a Copy of which is enclosed. From this it appears, that the Count d’Estaing had not returned with his Squadron on the 13th Inst.; and there is reason to fear, from the violence of the Weather ever since, that he has not yet got in. This accident has much deranged our views; and I shall be happy if it does not totally defeat our Enterprise against Rhode Island. I feel much for the Count. He has been peculiarly unfortunate in the combination of several untoward circumstances to frustrate his plans. The Letter addressed to you accompanied mine from General Sullivan. They were both delivered at the same instant; and thro’ inadvertence I broke the seal of yours. Before I had opened it, I discovered the mistake; and the contents have not been seen. This relation, I trust, will apologize for the measure. I have the honor to be, &c.
P.S.—Your favor of the 13th has come to hand.1
TO HENRY LAURENS.
Head-Quarters, 20 August, 1778.
I am now to acknowledge my obligations for your favor of the 31st ulto., and for its several enclosures.
The conduct of Governor Johnstone has been certainly reprehensible, to say no worse of it; and so I think the world will determine. His letters to Mr. Morris and Mr. Reed are very significant, and the points to which they conclude quite evident. They are, if I may be allowed so to express myself, of a pulse-feeling cast; and the offer to the latter, through the lady, a direct attempt upon his integrity. When these things are known, he must share largely in public contempt, and the more so from the opposite parts he has taken.1
I am sorry you troubled yourself with transmitting to me copies and extracts from your letters to the French officers, in answer to their applications for rank. Your word, Sir, will always have the fullest credit with me, whenever you shall be pleased to give it upon any occasion; and I have only to regret, that there has not been the same degree of decision and resolution, in every gentleman as you have used in these instances. If there had, it would not only have contributed much to the tranquillity of the army, but preserved the rights of our own officers. With respect to the brevet commissions, I know many of the French gentlemen have obtained nothing more; that these were intended as merely honorary; and that they are not so objectionable as the other sort. However, these are attended with great inconveniences; for the instant they gain a point upon you, no matter what their primary professions and engagements were, they extend their views, and are incessant in teasing for actual command. The reason for their pressing for printed commissions in the usual form, in preference to the brevets you give ’em, is obvious. The former are better calculated to favor their schemes, as they impart an idea of real command, and, of consequence, afford them grounds for their future solicitations. I am well pleased with Monsieur Gerard’s declaration, and, if he adheres to it, he will prevent many frivolous and unwarrantable applications; for, finding their pursuits not seconded by his interest, many of the gentlemen will be discouraged and relinquish every hope of success. Nor am I insensible of the propriety of your wish respecting our friend, the Marquis. His countrymen soon find access to his heart; and he is but too apt afterwards to interest himself in their behalf, without having a sufficient knowledge of their merit, or a proper regard to their extravagant views. I will be done upon the subject. I am sure you have been severely punished by their importunities as well as myself.
The performance ascribed to Mr. Mauduit is really curious as coming from him, when we consider his past conduct. He is a sensible writer, and his conversion at an earlier day, with many others that have lately happened, might have availed his country much. His reasoning is plain and forcible, and within the compass of every understanding.
I have nothing new to inform you of. My public letter to Congress yesterday contained my last advices from Rhode Island. I hope in a few days, from the high spirits and expectations of General Sullivan, that I shall have the happiness to congratulate you on our success in that quarter. I am, dear Sir, &c.
TO BRIGADIER-GENERAL NELSON, VIRGINIA.
Camp, at theWhite Plains,
My Dear Sir,
In what terms can I sufficiently thank you for your polite attention to me, and agreeable present? And, which is still more to the purpose, with what propriety can I deprive you of a valuable and favorite horse? You have pressed me once, nay twice, to accept him as a gift. As a proof of my sincere attachment to, and friendship for, you, I obey, with this assurance, that from none but a gentleman for whom I have the highest regard would I do this, notwithstanding the distressed situation I have been in for the want of one.
I am heartily disappointed at a late resolution of Congress for the discontinuance of your corps, because I pleased myself with the prospect of seeing you, and many other gentlemen of my acquaintance from Virginia in camp. As you had got to Philadelphia, I do not think the saving or difference of expense, (taking up the matter even upon that ground, which, under present circumstances, I think a very erroneous one,) was by any means an object suited to the occasion.1
The arrival of the French fleet upon the coast of America is a great and striking event; but the operations of it have been injured by a number of unforeseen and unfavorable circumstances, which, though they ought not to detract from the merit and good intention of our great ally, have nevertheless lessened the importance of their services in a great degree. The length of the passage, in the first instance, was a capital misfortune; for had even one of the common length taken place, Lord Howe, with the British ships of war and all the transports in the river Delaware, must inevitably have fallen, and Sir Harry must have had better luck, than is commonly dispensed to men of his profession under such circumstances, if he and his troops had not shared (at least) the fate of Burgoyne. The long passage of Count d’Estaing was succeeded by an unfavorable discovery at the Hook, which hurt us in two respects: first, in a defeat of the enterprise upon New York, the shipping, and troops at that place; and, next, in the delay that was used in ascertaining the depth of water over the bar, which was essential to their entrance into the harbor of New York. And, lastly, after the enterprise upon Rhode Island had been planned, and was in the moment of execution, that Lord Howe with the British ships should interpose merely to create a diversion and draw the French fleet from the Island was again unlucky, as the Count had not returned on the 17th to the Island, tho’ drawn off from it the 10th; by which means the land operations were retarded, and the whole subject to a miscarriage in case of the arrival of Byron’s squadron.
I do not know what to make of the enemy at New York. Whether their stay at that place is the result of choice, or the effect of necessity proceeding from an inferiority in the fleet, want of provisions, or other causes, I know not. But certain it is, that, if it is not an act of necessity, it is profoundly mysterious, unless they look for considerable reinforcements, and are waiting the arrival of them to commence their operations. Time will show.
It is not a little pleasing, nor less wonderful to contemplate, that after two years’ manœuvring and undergoing the strangest vicissitudes, that perhaps ever attended any one contest since the creation, both armies are brought back to the very point they set out from, and that which was the offending party in the beginning is now reduced to the use of the spade and pickaxe for defence. The hand of Providence has been so conspicuous in all this, that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked, that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations. But it will be time enough for me to turn preacher, when my present appointment ceases; and therefore I shall add no more on the doctrine of Providence; but make a tender of my best respects to your good lady, the secretary, and other friends, and assure you, that, with the most perfect regard, I am, dear Sir, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL GREENE.
Camp,White Plains, 21 August, 1778.
On Wednesday afternoon I received your favor of the 12th instant by Mr. Hulett, the pilot, who did not arrive at camp till then. I am much obliged by your particular relation of matters, and request that you will continue it from time to time, whenever opportunity will permit. There is one circumstance in your relation, which I was exceedingly sorry to hear.1 You will readily know which it is. I wish the utmost harmony to prevail, as it is essential to success; and that no occasions may be omitted on your part to cultivate it.
Your operations have been greatly retarded by the late violent storm; but, as it is now over, I trust things will go on prosperously, and that you will be rejoined by Count d’Estaing, who has been kept out so long by it. Indeed, from General Sullivan’s letter of the 17th, I flatter myself you will have made a complete reduction of the enemy’s force before this reaches you, and that the next advices I receive will announce it. If the fact is otherwise, let me beseech you to guard against sorties and surprises. The enemy, depend upon it, will fall like a strong man, will make many sallies, and endeavor to possess themselves of or destroy your artillery; and should they once put the militia into confusion, the consequences may be fatal.
By a letter, which I received yesterday from General Maxwell, enclosing one from Major Howell, whom I have stationed at Black Point for the purpose of observation, it appears certain, that sixteen of Lord Howe’s fleet entered the Hook on the 17th; that on that and the preceding day there had been heard severe cannonades at sea, and that it was reported in New York, that a sixty-four gun ship and several transports had been taken by the French squadron. I wish the fact may be so, as to the capture, and that the Count may be with you to give you a narrative of it himself. I cannot learn that Admiral Byron is arrived, nor do I believe that he is. As Major Blodget is in a hurry to proceed, I have not time to add more, than to assure you that I am, with the most perfect esteem and regard, dear Sir, &c.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL SULLIVAN.
I am exceedingly anxious to hear the determination of yourself and the General officers upon the great reverse of your prospects, since the French Fleet left you.2 I however think it incumbent upon me to inform you, that from a variety of intelligence Lord Howe put to sea again on Tuesday. His design no doubt to attempt the relief of Newport, which will be easily effected, either by throwing in a reinforcement or withdrawing the Garrison; as I take it for granted the French Fleet would not have returned, had your protest reached them. I also yesterday received information from Long Island, that looks like a great and general move among the British army. The real intent I have not been able to learn, but I think part of it must be meant to coöperate with their fleet, especially as many transports are drawn into the Sound. You will more than probably have come to a decisive resolution, either to abandon the enterprise, or to attack, long before this reaches you; but, lest you should not, I have given you all the information that I have been able to obtain, that you may judge more fully the propriety of remaining upon the Island under such appearances. The Wind is now contrary, and, if it continues a short time, this will reach you before the transports can, should they be bound eastward.
Suppose you should remove from the Island, I desire you will keep as many of your troops together as you possibly can. We do not know the views of the enemy. Should they be Eastward, you may be able with a force already collected, and the assistance of the Militia, to keep them from making much progress, until a reinforcement from this army would join you, I will just add a hint, which, made use of in time, may prove important, and answer a very salutary purpose. Should the expedition fail, thro’ the abandonment of the French Fleet, the officers concerned will be apt to complain loudly. But prudence dictates, that we should put the best face upon the matter, and to the World attribute the removal to Boston to necessity. The Reasons are too obvious to need explaining. The principal one is, that our British and internal enemies would be glad to improve the least matter of complaint and disgust against and between us and our new allies into a serious purpose. I am, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL HEATH.
The unfortunate circumstance of the French fleet having left Rhode Island at so critical a moment, I am apprehensive, if not very prudently managed, will have many injurious consequences, besides merely the loss of the advantages we should have reaped from succeeding in the expedition. It will not only tend to discourage the people, and weaken their confidence in our new alliance, but it may possibly produce prejudices and resentments, which may operate against giving the fleet such zealous and effectual assistance in its present distress, as the exigence of affairs and our true interests demand. It will certainly be sound policy to combat these effects, and, whatever private opinions may be entertained, to give the most favorable construction of what has happened to the public, and at the same time to exert ourselves to put the French fleet, as soon as possible, in a condition to defend itself and be useful to us.
The departure of the fleet from Rhode Island is not yet publicly announced here; but, when it is, I intend to ascribe it to necessity, from the damage suffered in the late storm. This, it appears to me, is the idea, which ought to be generally propagated. As I doubt not the force of those reasons will strike you equally with myself, I would recommend to you to use your utmost influence to palliate and soften matters, and to induce those, whose business it is to provide succors of every kind for the fleet, to employ their utmost zeal and activity in doing it. It is our duty to make the best of our misfortunes, and not to suffer passion to interfere with our interest and the public good.1
By several late accounts from New York, there is reason to believe the enemy are on the point of some important movement. They have been some days past embarking cannon and other matters. Yesterday an hundred and forty transports fell down to the Hook. These and other circumstances indicate something of moment being in contemplation. Whether they meditate any enterprise against this army, mean to transfer the war elsewhere, or intend to embrace the present opportunity of evacuating the continent, is as yet uncertain. If they have a superior fleet on the coast, it is not impossible they may change the seat of the war to the Eastward, endeavoring by a land and sea coöperation to destroy or possess themselves of the French fleet. With an eye to an event of this kind, I have desired General Sullivan, if he makes good his retreat from the Island, to disband no more of his troops than he cannot help; and I would recommend to you to have an eye to it likewise, and, by establishing signals and using other proper precautions, to put things in a train for calling out your militia at the shortest notice. I am, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL SULLIVAN.
I have not received any letter from you since the 23d Ulto., which I attribute to some mishap of the messengers with whom they were sent. I was anxious to learn the determination and designs of the Council of Officers, that so I might be prepared for eventual measures.—the success or misfortune of your army will have great influence in directing the movement and fortune of this.
The disagreement between the army under your command and the fleet has given me very singular uneasiness.1 The Continent at large is concerned in our cordiality, and it should be kept up by all possible means, consistent with our honor and policy. First impressions you know are generally longest remembered, and will serve to fix in a great degree our national character among the french. In our conduct towards them we should remember, that they are a people old in war, very strict in military etiquette, and apt to take fire, where others scarcely seem warmed. Permit me to recommend, in the most particular manner, the cultivation of harmony and good agreement, and your endeavors to destroy that ill humor, which may have got into the officers. It is of the greatest importance also, that the minds of the soldiers and the people should know nothing of the misunderstanding, or, if it has reached them, that ways may be used to stop its progress and prevent its effects.
I have received from Congress the enclosed, by which you will perceive their opinions with regard to keeping secret the protest of the general officers. I need add nothing on this head. I have one thing however more to say. I make no doubt but you will do all in your power to forward the repair of the Count’s fleet, and rendering it fit for service, by your recommendations for that purpose to those, who can be immediately instrumental. I am, dear Sir, &c.
TO MAJOR GENERAL GREENE.
I have had the pleasure of receiving your several letters, the last of which was of the 22d of Augt. I have not now time to take notice of the several arguments, that were made use of for and against the Count’s quitting the harbor of Newport, and sailing for Boston. Right or wrong, it will probably disappoint our sanguine expectations of success, and, what I esteem a still worse consequence, I fear it will sow the seeds of dissension and distrust between us and our new allies, unless the most prudent measures are taken to suppress the feuds and jealousies, that have already arisen. I depend much upon your temper and influence to concilliate that animosity, which I plainly perceive, by a letter from the Marquis, subsists between the American officers and the French in our service. This, you may depend, will extend itself to the Count, and the officers and men of his whole Fleet, should they return to Rhode Island; except, upon their arrival there, they find a reconciliation has taken place. The Marquis speaks kindly of a letter from you to him upon this subject. He will therefore take any advice coming from you in a friendly light; and, if he can be pacified, the other French gentlemen will of course be satisfied, as they look up to him as their Head. The Marquis grounds his complaint upon a general order of the 24 of Augt., the latter part of which is certainly very impolitic, and upon the universal clamor that prevailed against the french nation.1
I beg you will take every measure to keep the protest, entered into by the General Officers, from being made public. The Congress, sensible of the ill consequences that will flow from the World’s knowing our differences, have passed a resolve to that purpose. Upon the whole, my dear Sir, you can conceive my meaning better than I can express it; and I therefore fully depend upon your exerting yourself to head all private animosities between our principal officers and the french, and to prevent all illiberal expressions and reflections, that may fall from the army at large.
I have this moment recd. a letter from Genl. Sullivan of the 29th August, in which he barely informs me of an action upon that day, in which he says we had the better, but does not mention particulars.1
I am, &c.
TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE.
White Plains, 1 September, 1778.
My dear Marquis,
I have been honored by your favor of the 25th ultimo by Monsieur Pontgebaud, and wish my time, which at present is taken up by a committee of Congress, would permit me to go fully into the contents of it. This, however, it is not in my power to do. But in one word let me say, I feel every thing that hurts the sensibility of a gentleman, and consequently upon the present occasion I feel for you and for our good and great allies the French. I feel myself hurt, also, at every illiberal and unthinking reflection, which may have been cast upon the Count d’Estaing, or the conduct of the fleet under his command; and lastly I feel for my country. Let me entreat you, therefore, my dear Marquis, to take no exception at unmeaning expressions, uttered perhaps without consideration, and in the first transport of disappointed hope. Everybody, Sir, who reasons, will acknowledge the advantages which we have derived from the French fleet, and the zeal of the commander of it; but, in a free and republican government, you cannot restrain the voice of the multitude. Every man will speak as he thinks, or, more properly, without attending to the causes. The censures, which have been levelled at the officers of the French fleet, would more than probable have fallen in a much higher degree upon a fleet of our own, (if we had one) in the same situation. It is the nature of man to be displeased with every thing, that disappoints a favorite hope or flattering project; and it is the folly of too many of them to condemn without investigating circumstnces. Let me beseech you therefore, my good Sir, to afford a healing hand to the wound, that unintentionally has been made. America esteems your virtues and your services, and admires the principles upon which you act. Your countrymen in our army look up to you as their patron. The Count and his officers consider you as a man high in rank, and high in estimation here and also in France; and I, your friend, have no doubt but you will use your utmost endeavors to restore harmony, that the honor, glory, and mutual interest of the two nations may be promoted and cemented in the firmest manner. I would say more on the subject, but am restrained for want of time; and therefore shall only add, that, with every sentiment of esteem and regard, I am, my dear Marquis, &c.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
I have been duly honored with your favors of the 28th and that of the 30th ulto., with the several enclosures to which they refer.
Congress may rely, that I will use every possible means in my power to conciliate any differences, that may have arisen in consequence of the Count d’Estaing’s going to Boston, and to prevent a publication of the protest upon the occasion. Several days before the receipt of the Resolution, I had written to the Eastward, urging the necessity of harmony, and the expediency of affording the Admiral every assistance to refit his ships. This I repeated after the resolution came to hand; and I have also taken opportunities to request all the general officers here to place the matter in the most favorable point of view, whenever they hear it mentioned.
The Five Hundred Guineas, which Congress were pleased to order, came safe to hand, and shall be appropriated to the purposes they intended, and as the exigency of the service may require. For want of supplies of this sort, we have been very deficient in intelligence in many important and interesting points. In some cases, no consideration in paper money has been found sufficient to effect even an engagement to procure it; and, where it has been otherwise, the terms of service, on account of the depreciation, have been high, if not exorbitant.
The designs of the Enemy, as to their future movements, remain yet entirely unfolded; but the expectation of their leaving the continent is daily decreasing. The hurricane season seems opposed to their going to the West Indies; and the passage to Europe in a little time will become more and more dangerous. Besides these, there is another circumstance, of some weight if true, to induce a belief that they mean to stay. It appears by the papers, that part of the Regiments lately raised in Britain are ordered to Halifax. If the troops here were intended to be recalled, it would seem that some of them would be sent to reinforce that Garrison sooner than troops from England or Scotland; and hence I think it may be presumed, that another Campaign will take place in America, especially if administration are disappointed in their expectations from the commission.
Where the theatre of war may be, must be a matter of conjecture. But, as it is an acknowledged fact, that an army acting in the Eastern States must derive flour for its support from those more western, I submit to Congress the expediency, and in my opinion the necessity, of establishing, without loss of time, magazines of this article at convenient places removed from the Sound in Connecticut and Massachusetts. I am the more induced to wish an early consideration of this point, as, by a sudden move of the army, (should events make it necessary,) the departments of commissary and quartermaster would be greatly distressed. Nor would such magazines, I should imagine, be attended with any considerable loss, though the army should not operate in that quarter, as the flour would answer occasionally for our shipping, and the surplus might, in all probability, be otherwise readily disposed of.
I take the liberty of transmitting to Congress, a memorial I received from the Reverend Mr. Tetard. From the certificates annexed to it, he appears to be a man of great merit, and from every account he has suffered in the extreme, in the present contest. His attachment, services and misfortunes seem to give him a claim to a generous notice; but according to the now establishment of the army, it is not in my power to make any provision for him. I therefore recommend his case to the attention and consideration of Congress.
Six o’clock, P.M.—I this minute received a Letter from General Sullivan, of which the Enclosure No. 2 is a copy. I shall be exceedingly happy, if a perfect reconciliation has taken place between him and the Count, and all the officers. His Letter will show some of the reasons, that led to the protest, and that it was the hope of our officers, that it would have operated as a justification to the Admiral to return, against the sentiments of his council, especially as it coincided, it is said, with his own inclination. I had these reasons from another hand when the protest first came.
I was duly honored yesterday evening, with your favor of the 31st Ulto. Tho’ it is not expressed in the Resolution of that date, that any other bounty is to be given to the men, who engage for three years or during the war, than Twenty Dollars, I shall take it for granted they are to receive the usual allowance of Cloathing and Lands. There are several Continental Troops whose time of service will expire at the end of the fall or during the Winter. I shall consider these within the meaning and operation of the Resolve, tho’ they are not mentioned—and shall direct every necessary measure to be taken to rein-list them. From the exorbitant State, Town and Substitute bounties, I am very doubtful whether Twenty Dollars will be found sufficient to engage so great a proportion either of the Draughts or Continentals, as was at first apprehended. Our failure in the enterprize against Rhode Island will have its weight and every day, from the approach of the fall and Winter, will add new difficulties. As it is a work of the most essential importance, I will order it to be begun, the instant the Money arrives; and lest on experiment the sum should prove too small I would submit it to Congress, whether it will not be expedient to pass another Resolve, authorizing a further bounty of Ten Dollars, to be used as circumstances may make it necessary. This can remain a secret, and will not be carried into execution, but in case of evident necessity. I feel very much interested upon the occasion, and have submitted this mode, that there may not be the least possible delay in attempting to engage the men, under a second expedient, if the first should not succeed. The Articles of Cloathing and blankets should also employ the utmost attention to provide them. We are now in great want, particularly of the latter, there not being less than — actually wanted at this moment. I have, &c.
P. S. The return of Blankets has not come in and therefore I cannot ascertain the deficiency by this conveyance.
TO GOUVERNEUR MORRIS.
I was yesterday favored with your letter of the 31st ulto. The one you allude to, came to hand about five days before.
I thank you much for your very polite and friendly appeal, upon the subject of half-bounty in solid coin.1 The measure, I have no doubt, would produce an instant benefit, so far as the engaging of drafts might be concerned. But I am certain that many mischievous and pernicious consequences would flow from it. It would have a tendency to depreciate our paper money, which is already of no value, and give rise to infinite difficulties and irremovable inconveniences. Nothing after this would do but gold or silver. All would demand it, and none would consider the impracticability of its being furnished. The soldiers, seeing the manifest difference in the value between that and our paper, and that the former would procure at least five or six fold as much as the latter, would become dissatisfied. They would reason upon the subject, and, in fine, cast their views to desertion at least, as a very probable and the only expedient from whence it might be derived, and similar and greater advantages arise. As the express is now waiting, I will not enter upon a long detail, or into an enumeration of the evils, that would result from the grant. I am satisfied they would be many, and of an obstinate and injurious kind, and that they would far overbalance, in their operation and effect, any present good. We have no prospect of procuring gold and silver to discharge more than a mere scruple of our demands. It is therefore our interest and truest policy, to give a currency to fix a value, as far as it may be practicable, upon all occasions, upon that which is to be the medium of our internal commerce and the support of the war. I am, &c.1
TO COUNT D’ESTAING.
Head-Quarters, 11th Septem., 1778.
I have had the honor of receiving your Letter of the 5th inst., accompanied by a Copy of two Letters to Congress and Genl. Sullivan. The confidence, which you have been pleased to show in communicating these papers, engages my sincere thanks. If the deepest regret, that the best concerted enterprise and bravest exertions should have been rendered fruitless by a disaster, which human prudence is incapable of foreseeing or preventing, can alleviate disappointment, you may be assured, that the whole Continent sympathizes with you. It will be a consolation to you to reflect, that the thinking part of mankind do not form their judgment from events; and that their equity will ever attach equal glory to those actions, which deserve success, as to those which have been crowned with it. It is in the trying circumstances to which Your Excellency has been exposed, that the virtues of a great mind are displayed in their brightest lustre, and that the General’s Character is better known, than in the moment of Victory. It was yours, by every title which can give it; and the adverse element, which robbed you of your prize, can never deprive you of the Glory due to you. Tho’ your success has not been equal to your expectations, yet you have the satisfaction of reflecting, that you have rendered essential services to the common cause.
I exceedingly lament, that, in addition to our misfortunes, there has been the least suspension of harmony and good understanding between the generals of allied nations, whose views must, like their interests, be the same. On the first intimation of it, I employed my influence in restoring what I regard as essential to the permanence of an Union founded on mutual inclination, and the strongest ties of reciprocal advantage. Your Excellency’s offer to the Council of Boston had a powerful tendency to promote the same end, and was a distinguished proof of your zeal and magnanimity.1
The present Superiority of the enemy in naval force must for a time suspend all plans of offensive coöperation between us. It is not easy to foresee what change may take place by the arrival of Succours to you from Europe, or what opening the enemy may give you to resume your activity. In this moment, therefore, every consultation on this subject would be premature. But it is of infinite importance, that we should take all the means that our circumstances will allow for the defence of a Squadron, which is so pretious to the common cause of france and America, and which may have become a capital object with the enemy. Whether this really is the case, can be only matter of conjecture. The original intention of the reinforcement sent to Rhode island was obviously the relief of the Garrison at that post. I have to lament, that, tho’ seasonably advised of the movement, it was utterly out of my power to counteract it. A naval force alone could have defeated the attempt. How far their views may since have been enlarged, by the arrival of Byron’s fleet, Your Excellency will be best able to judge. Previous to this event, I believe Genl. Clinton was waiting orders from his court for the conduct he was to pursue; in the meantime embarking his Stores and heavy baggage, in order to be the better prepared for a prompt evacuation, if his instructions should require it.1
But as the present posture of affairs may induce a change of operations, and tempt them to carry the war eastward for the ruin of your Squadron, it will be necessary for us to be prepared to oppose such an enterprise. I am unhappy, that our situation will not admit of our contributing more effectually to this important end; but assure you, at the same time, that whatever can be attempted without losing sight of objects equally essential to the interest of the two nations, shall be put in execution.
A Candid view of our affairs, which I am going to exhibit, will make you a judge of the difficulties under which we labor. Almost all our supplies of flour, and no inconsiderable part of our meat, are drawn from the States westward of Hudson’s River. This renders a secure communication across the River indispensably necessary, both to the support of your Squadron and the Army. The enemy being masters of that navigation, would interrupt this essential intercourse between the States. They have been sensible of these advantages; and by the attempts, which they have made, to bring about a Separation of the Eastern from the Southern States, and the facility, which their superiority by Sea has hitherto given them, have always obliged us, besides garrisoning the Forts that immediately defend the passage, to keep a force at least equal to that, which they have had posted in New York and its dependencies.
It is incumbent upon us at this time to have a greater force in this quarter than usual, from the concentered State of the enemy’s strength, and the uncertainty of their designs. In addition to this, it is to be observed, that they derive an inestimable advantage from the facility of transporting their troops from one point to another. These rapid movements enable them to give us uneasiness for remote, unguarded parts, in attempting to succor which we should be exposed to ruinous marches, and after all perhaps be the dupes of a feint.—if they could, by any demonstration in another part, draw out attention and strength from this important point, and, by anticipating our return, possess themselves of it, the consequences would be fatal. Our dispositions must, therefore, have equal regard to coöperating with you in a defensive plan, and securing the North River; which the remoteness of the two objects from each other renders peculiarly difficult. Immediately upon the change, which happened in your naval affairs, my attention was directed to conciliating these two great ends. The necessity of transporting magazines, collected relatively to our present position, and making new arrangements for ulterior operations, has hitherto been productive of delay. These points are now nearly accomplished, and I hope in a day or two to begin a general movement of the Army eastward. As a commencement of this, one division marched this morning under Major-General Gates towards Danbury, and the rest of the army will follow as speedily as possible.
The following is a general idea of my disposition. The army will be thrown into several divisions, one of which, consisting of a force equal to the Enemy’s in New York, will be posted about thirty miles in the rear of my present camp, and in the vicinity of the North River, with a view to its defence; the other will be pushed on at different stages as far towards Connecticut River, as can be done consistently with preserving a communication, and having them within supporting distance of each other, so as that, when occasion may require, they may form a junction, either for their own immediate defence, or to oppose any attempts, that may be made on the North River. The facility which the enemy have of collecting their whole force, and turning it against any point they choose, will restrain us from extending ourselves so far as will either expose us to be beaten by detachment, or endanger the Security of the North River.
This disposition will place the American forces as much in measure for assisting in the defence of your Squadron, and the Town of Boston, as is compatible with the other great objects of our care. It does not appear to me probable, that the enemy would hazard the penetrating of Boston by land, with the force which they at present have to the eastward. I am rather inclined to believe, that they will draw together their whole Land and Naval Strength, to give the greater probability of Success. In order to do this, New York must be evacuated; an event, which cannot take place without being announced by circumstances impossible to conceal; and I have reason to hope that the time, which must necessarily be exhausted in embarking and transporting their troops and Stores, would be sufficient for me to advance a considerable part of my army in a posture for opposing them.
The observations which Your Excellency makes relative to the necessity of having intelligent spies, are perfectly just—every measure that circumstances would admit has been to answer this valuable end—and our intelligence has in general been as good as could be expected from the situation of the Enemy. The distance at which we are from our posts of observations in the first instance, and the long Journey which is afterwards to be performed before a letter can reach Your Excellency hinder my communicating intelligence with such celerity as I could wish.—
The letter which I sent giving an account of Lord Howe’s movements was despatched as soon as the fact was ascertained but it did not arrive ’till you had gone to sea, in pursuit of the british Squadron—
As Your Excellency does not mention the letters I last had the honor of writing to you, I am apprehensive of some delay or miscarriage—their dates were the 3d & 4th inst.
The sincere esteem and regard which I feel for Your Excellency, make me set the highest value upon every expression of friendship with which you are pleased to honor me—I entreat you to accept the most cordial return on my part—I shall count it a singular felicity if in the course of possible operations above alluded to, personal intercourse shd. afford me the means of cultivating a closer intimacy with you, and of proving more particularly the respect and attachment with which
I have, &c.
P. S. My dispatches were going to be closed when Your Excellency’s Letter of the 8th was delivered to me.
The state of Byron’s Fleet from the best intelligence I have been able to obtain, is as follows:
Six Ships, the names of which are mentioned in the paper I had the honor of transmitting the 3d—have arrived at New York, with Crews in very bad health.
Two vizt. The Cornwall of 74 and Monmouth of 64, had joined Lord Howe—two, one of which the Admiral’s Ship, were missing. One had put back to Portsmouth.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL SULLIVAN.
Yours of the 10th came to hand late last night. The intentions of the enemy are yet very mysterious. From the expression of your letter, I take it for granted, that General Grey had embarked again after destroying Bedford; and by his hovering about the Coast, and Lord Howe’s coming round again to Newport, I cannot but think, that they mean something more than a diversion or deception. The destruction of the Count d’Estaing’s Fleet is an object of the greatest magnitude; but as that cannot be easily effected, while they lay in the harbor of Boston, without a coöperation by land and water, I am apprehensive, that they mean to possess themselves of such grounds in the neighborhood of Boston, as will enable them to carry such a plan into execution. Whether they would do this by landing at a distance, and marching thro’ the Country, or by possessing themselves at once of part of the harbor, I cannot determine. I must therefore recommend it to you to keep the strictest watch upon the motions of the Enemy, and if you find them inclining towards Boston, endeavor, with your own force and what you can collect upon the occasion, to prevent them from taking such position as will favor their designs upon the Fleet.
Upon a supposition, that the Enemy mean to operate to the eastward, I have already advanced three Brigades some distance from the main Body of the army, ready to move forward, should there be occasion; and I intend to place the whole in such a position in a day or two, that they may either march to the Eastward, or be within supporting distance of the posts upon the North River, as appearances may require.1
I shall govern myself chiefly in my motions by the advices I receive from you. I therefore most earnestly entreat you to be very clear and explicit in your information, and to let me hear from you every day—Tho’ there may be nothing material to communicate yet it relieves me from a state of anxiety, which a suspension of intelligence naturally creates.
I would not have you attempt, in the present situation of affairs to divide your force too much in order to cover every part of the Country, and as the Enemy have now the superiority by sea, I recommend it to you by all means to keep out of Necks or narrow pieces of land with any considerable Bodies of Men. Small guards posted at the most likely places of descent are all that ought to be expected from you. In one of my late letters I mentioned the necessity of taking the public Arms out of the Hands of the disbanded militia. I cannot help repeating the necessity again, because I find our public Magazines are unable to supply the wants of the Army, notwithstanding the great importations of last year.
Be pleased to forward my letter to Count d’Estaing with the greatest expedition, to whom be pleased to communicate every move of the enemy by land or water, as far as they come under your observation. I am, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Enclosed I have the honor to transmit Congress a copy of a report of a Board of officers, who were appointed by me to consider what would be the most eligible plan for invading Canada, in case our future prospects and circumstances should justify the enterprise. The pains, which General Gates has for some time past taken to inform himself on the subject, and the knowledge which General Bayley and Col. Hazen possess of the country, induced me to make choice of these gentlemen.1 It appears to me, that the mode recommended by them for an expedition of this kind is liable to fewest objections, and, though attended with many difficulties, affords a reasonable prospect of success. The great naval force of the enemy on the lakes is, in my opinion, an almost insurmountable obstacle to any attempt to penetrate by the ordinary communication.
The expediency of the undertaking, in a military point of view, will depend on the enemy’s evacuating these States, and on the reinforcements they may send into Canada. While they keep their present footing, we shall find employment enough in defending ourselves, without meditating conquests; or, if they send a large addition of strength into that country, it may require greater force and more abundant supplies, on our part, to effect its reduction, than our resources may perhaps admit. But if they should leave us, and their other exigencies should oblige them to neglect Canada, we may derive essential advantages from a successful expedition there; and if it should be thought advisable, there is no time to be lost in making preparations, particularly if the idea of carrying it on in the Winter be pursued.
The great importance of the object, both in a military and political light, demands the sanction and concurrence of Congress before any steps can be taken towards it with propriety. The peculiar preparations, which will be necessary from the peculiar nature of the enterprise, is an additional motive with me for requesting thus early their determination, as a considerable expense must be incurred in procuring several articles, which would not be requisite but on this occasion. The soldiery must be clad in a particular manner, to fit them for enduring the inclemencies of an active winter campaign; a number of snow-shoes must be provided, and extraordinary means of transportation, to convey our stores and baggage through a country covered with snow, and a great part of it hitherto unexplored.
Congress will perceive, that valuable magazines both of provisions and forage may be laid up in the upper settlements on Connecticut River. I have given directions for this purpose, because if the expedition in question should be carried into execution, they will be indispensable; if it should not, they will still be very beneficial for supplying the army, especially if the war should be transferred Eastward, which there are many powerful reasons to expect. I shall not trouble Congress with more extensive details on the subject, as Colonel Hazen, who will have the honor of delivering this, will be able to satisfy any inquiries they may be pleased to make. I am, with the greatest esteem, &c.1
TO HENRY LAURENS.
White Plains, Sept. 12, 1778.
A few days ago I wrote in haste a letter to you by Major Morris, and took the liberty of returning the gold you were so obliging as to send me by Jones. For your kind intention of forwarding that sum, and goodness in bringing Congress acquainted with my want of specie, you will please to accept my sincere and hearty thanks, These are also due to you for your polite attention in forwarding, for my perusal, the late exhibitions of Governor Johnstone and his brethren in commission. That of the former is really a curious performance. He tries to convince you that he is not at all hurt by, or offended at, the interdiction of Congress, and that he is not in a passion; while he exhibits abundant proof that he is cut to the quick and biting his fingers in an agony of passion.
Your letter to Col. Laurens respecting Mons. Galvan was forwarded to Rhode Island while he was on his return from Boston, by which means he missed it. This gentleman (if he may be so called, Mons. Galvan) waited on me a few days ago, and met with the reception due to his merit and conduct to you. The beginning of the next paragraph of that letter excited my curiosity to pursue it to the end, and to my shame, was reminded of my inattention to your favor of the 18th of June, which coming to hand upon my march through Jersey, and being laid by to be acknowledged at a time of more leisure, was entirely forgot till your inquiry after the letters from Messrs. Oswald and Manning recalled it to my recollection. I now return these letters, together with Gov. Johnstone’s, and a tender of my thanks for the favor of perusing them. I am convinced that no apology can be more agreeable to you, in excuse for my neglect, than a plain narrative of the truth, and this I have offered.
I am sorry to find by your favor of 29th ult. that Mons. Gerard was indisposed. I hope his disorder was not of long continance and that he is now perfectly recovered. Having often heard this gentleman spoken of as a well-wisher to, and promoter of the rights of, America, I have placed him among the number of those we ought to revere. Should you see no impropriety in my (being a stranger to Mons. Gerard) presenting compliments to him, I would give you trouble of doing this; and of assuring him, that I could wish to be considered (by him) as one of his admirers.
TO JOHN AUGUSTINE WASHINGTON.
Fredericksburg, 23 September, 1778.
Your letter of the 30th ultimo came to my hands a few days ago, and gave me the pleasure of hearing that you were all well, and an opportunity of congratulating you on the birth of a grandchild, though you do not say whether it be a male or female.
The proceedings of the general court-martial, in the case of General Lee, having lain with Congress ever since the 20th of last month for their approbation or disapprobation; and why it is yet undecided upon, I know no more than you; and therefore I shall not hazard a conjecture, as it has been my aim, from the beginning, to avoid saying any thing upon the subject, till it came properly before the public.
To say any thing, at this late hour, of the proceedings against Rhode Island, would be but mere repetitions of narratives, with which all the newspapers are filled. The whole may be summed up in a few words, and amounts to this: that an unfortunate storm (so it appeared, and yet ultimately it may have happened for the best,) and some measures taken in consequence of it by the French Admiral, perhaps unavoidably, blasted in one moment the fairest hopes that ever were conceived; and, from a moral certainty of success, rendered it a matter of rejoicing to get our own troops safe off the Island. If the garrison of that place, consisting of nearly six thousand men, had been captured, as there was, in appearance at least, a hundred to one in favor of it, it would have given the finishing blow to British pretensions of sovereignty over this country; and would, I am persuaded, have hastened the departure of the troops in New York, as fast as their canvass wings could carry them away. What their present designs are, I know not. They are busily preparing, however, for something. Whether to operate against our posts in the Highlands and this army, whether for a remove eastwardly, and by a junction of their land and naval forces to attempt the destruction of the French fleet at Boston, and the repossession of that town, or whether to leave us altogether, for the purpose of reinforcing Canada, Nova Scotia, and their Islands, are matters yet to be determined. Many circumstances indicate a general movement, whilst others point out a partial one only; so that it is next to impossible to form a decided opinion of their plan. In short, my conception of the matter is, that they have none, but are waiting the orders of the administration, who were weak and wicked enough to expect something from their commissioners; preparing, in the mean while, for their departure, if that should, instead of Lord North’s ultimatum, be the determination; or for some vigorous effort, if coercion continue to be their plan.
There are but two capital objects, which they can have in view, except the defeat and dispersion of this army; and those are the possession of the fortifications in the Highlands, by which means the communication between the eastern and southern States would be cut off, and the destruction of the French fleet at Boston. These objects being far apart, render it very difficult to secure the one effectually without exposing the other eminently. I have, therefore, in order to do the best that the nature of the case will admit, strengthened the works, and reinforced the garrison in the Highlands, and thrown the army into such positions, as to move eastward, or westward as circumstances may require. The place I now date from is about thirty miles from the fort on the North River; and I have some troops nearer, and others farther off, but all on the road leading to Boston, if we should be dragged that way.1
Offer my compliments and congratulations to the young couple on the increase of their family, and my love to my sister and the rest of the family, and be assured that, with every sentiment of affection, I am, etc.
TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE.
Fredericksburg, 25 September, 1778.
My dear Marquis,
Since my last to you, I have been honored with your several favors of the 1st, 3d, and 21st of this month. The two first came to hand before I left the White Plains, and the last at this place. * * *
The sentiments of affection and attachment, which breathe so conspicuously in all your letters to me, are at once pleasing and honorable, and afford me abundant cause to rejoice at the happiness of my acquaintance with you. Your love of liberty, the just sense you entertain of this valuable blessing, and your noble and disinterested exertions in the cause of it, added to the innate goodness of your heart, conspire to render you dear to me; and I think myself happy in being linked with you in bonds of the strictest friendship.
The ardent zeal, which you have displayed during the whole course of the campaign to the eastward, and your endeavors to cherish harmony among the officers of the allied powers, and to dispel those unfavorable impressions, which had begun to take place in the minds of the unthinking, (from misfortunes, which the utmost stretch of human foresight could not avert,) deserves, and now receives, my particular and warmest thanks. I am sorry for Monsieur Tousard’s loss of an arm in the action on Rhode Island; and offer my thanks to him, through you, for his gallant behavior on that day.1
Could I have conceived, that my picture had been an object of your wishes, or in the smallest degree worthy of your attention, I should, while Mr. Peale was in camp at Valley Forge, have got him to have taken the best portrait of me he could, and presented it to you; but I really had not so good an opinion of my own worth, as to suppose that such a compliment would not have been considered as a greater instance of my vanity, than a mean of your gratification; and, therefore, when you requested me to sit to Monsieur Lanfang, I thought it was only to obtain the outlines and a few shades of my features, to have some prints struck from.1
If you have entertained thoughts, my dear Marquis, of paying a visit to your court, to your lady, and to your friends this winter, but waver on account of an expedition into Canada, friendship induces me to tell you, that I do not conceive that the prospect of such an operation is so favorable at this time, as to cause you to change your views. Many circumstances and events must transpire to render an enterprise of this kind practicable and advisable. The enemy, in the first place, must either withdraw wholly, or in part, from their present posts, to leave us at liberty to detach largely from this army. In the next place, if considerable reinforcements should be thrown into that country, a winter’s expedition would become impracticable, on account of the difficulties, which will attend the march of a large body of men, with the necessary apparatus, provisions, forage, and stores, at the inclement season. In a word, the chances are so much against the undertaking, that they ought not to induce you to lay aside your other purpose, in the prosecution of which you shall have every aid, and carry with you every honorable testimony of my regard and entire approbation of your conduct, that you can wish. But as it is a compliment, which is due, so I am persuaded you would not wish to dispense with the form, of signifying your desires to Congress on the subject of your voyage and absence.
I come now, in a more especial manner, to acknowledge the receipt of your obliging favor of the 21st by Major Dubois, and to thank you for the important intelligence therein contained. I do most cordially congratulate you on the glorious defeat of the British squadron under Admiral Keppel, an event which reflects the highest honor on the good conduct and bravery of Monsieur d’Orvilliers and the officers of the fleet under his command; at the same time that it is to be considered, I hope, as the happy presage of a fortunate and glorious war to his Most Christian Majesty. A confirmation of the account I shall impatiently wait and devoutly wish for. If the Spaniards, under this favorable beginning, would unite their fleet to that of France, together they would soon humble the pride of haughty Britain, and no longer suffer her to reign sovereign of the seas, and claim the privilege of giving law to the main. * * *
You have my free consent to make the Count d’Estaing a visit, and may signify my entire approbation of it to General Sullivan, who, I am glad to find, has moved you out of a cul de sac.1 It was my advice to him long ago to have no detachments in that situation, let particular places be never so much unguarded and exposed from the want of troops. Immediately upon my removal from the White Plains to this ground, the enemy threw a body of troops into the Jerseys; but for what purpose, unless to make a grand forage, I have not been able yet to learn. They advanced some troops at the same time from their lines at Kingsbridge towards our old encampment at the Plains, stripping the inhabitants not only of their provisions and forage, but even the clothes on their backs, and without discrimination.
The information, my dear Marquis, which I begged the favor of you to obtain, was not, I am persuaded, to be had through the channel of the officers of the French fleet, but by application to your fair lady, to whom I should be happy in an opportunity of paying my homage in Virginia, when the war is ended, if she could be prevailed upon to quit, for a few months, the gayeties and splendor of a court, for the rural amusements of an humble cottage.2
I shall not fail to inform Mrs. Washington of your polite attention to her. The gentlemen of my family are sensible of the honor you do them by your kind inquiries, and join with me in a tender of best regards; and none can offer them with more sincerity and affection than I do. With every sentiment you can wish, I am, my dear Marquis, etc.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
I am honored with your favour of the 27 of September, with the inclosed Resolves of Congress; a copy of which has been transmitted to Major-General Lincoln for his information and direction.
Being separated from my papers, I am uncertain whether I mentioned in my last, that, the enemy in the Jerseys having received a reinforcement and made some forward movements, I had thought it expedient to detach another brigade thither to act in conjunction with the one already there, together with Pulaski’s corps and the militia, and had sent Major-General Lord Stirling to take the command of the whole; that I had also ordered Major-General Putnam across the river for the immediate security of West Point, and moved a division of troops to this place, to be nearer that post. I have since come here myself, and propose to remain till the views of the enemy in the Jerseys are decided; though I have had no reason to alter my opinion, that nothing more than a forage is intended. By the last accounts they had drawn in their out-parties, and resumed their first bounds behind Hackinsac River, at the Liberty-Pole and Newbridge.
That part of Baylor’s regiment, which escaped, came off in the first instance, and were afterwards brought off, in so dispersed a manner, that the number has not been ascertained; but, from what I have learned, I should estimate the loss at about fifty men and seventy horses. Major Clough is dead of his wounds. This affair seems to have been attended with every circumstance of cruelty.1 It is a small compensation for this accident that Colonel Butler three or four days ago, with a party of infantry and horse comprehending Major Lee’s corps, surprised about an hundred Yagers below Tarrytown, killed ten on the spot, and took a lieutenant and eighteen men prisoners. The roughness of the country facilitated the flight of the rest, and prevented the success being more complete. The proceedings in the case of General St. Clair accompany this letter. I have the honor to be, &c.
P. S. I have received advices of the arrival of a Packet from England.1
TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE.
Fishkill, 4th Octr., 1778.
My dear Marquis,
I have had the pleasure of receiving, by the hands of Monsieur de la Colombe, your favor of the 28th ulto. accompanied by one of the 24th, which he overtook somewhere on the Road. The leave requested in the former,1 I am as much interested to grant, as to refuse my approbation of the Cartel proposed in the latter. The generous spirit of Chivalry, exploded by the rest of the world, finds a refuge, my dear friend, in the sensibility of your nation only. But it is in vain to cherish it, unless you can find antagonists to support it; and however well adapted it might have been to the times in which it existed, in our days it is to be feared, that your opponent, sheltering himself behind modern opinions, and under his present public character of Commissioner, would turn a virtue of such ancient date into ridicule. Besides, supposing his Lordship accepted your terms, experience has proved, that chance is often as much concerned in deciding these matters as bravery; and always more, than the justice of the cause. I would not therefore have your life by the remotest possibility exposed, when it may be reserved for so many greater occasions. His Excellency, the Admiral, I flatter myself, will be in sentimt. with me; and, as soon as he can spare you, send you to head-Quarters, where I anticipate the pleasure of seeing you.2
Having wrote very fully to you a few days ago, and put the Letter under cover to Genl. Sullivan, I have nought to add at this time, but to assure you, that, with the most perfect regard, I am, dear Sir, &c.1
TO GOUVERNEUR MORRIS.
Fishkill, Oct. 4th, 1778.
My public Letters to the President of Congress will inform you of the wind that wafted me to this place. Nothing more therefore need be said on that head. Your Letter of the 8th ulto. contains three questions and answers, to wit; Can the Enemy prosecute the war? Do they mean to stay on the Continent? And, is it our interest to put impediments in the way of their departure? To the first you answer in the negative. To the second you are decided in opinion, that they do not. And to the third say clearly, No.
Much, my good Sir, may be said in favor of these answers, and some things against the two first of them. By way therefore of dissertation on the first, I will also beg leave to put a question, and give it an answer. Can we carry on the war much longer? Certainly NO, unless some measures can be devised & speedily executed to restore the credit of our currency, restrain extortion, & punish forestallers. Without these can be effected, what funds can stand the present expenses of the army? And what officer can bear the weight of prices, that every necessary article is now got to? A Rat in the shape of a horse, is not to be bought at this time for less than £200; A Saddle under Thirty or Forty;—Boots twenty,—and shoes and other articles in the like proportion.—How is it possible, therefore, for officers to stand this without an increase of pay? And how is it possible to advance their Pay, when Flour is selling (at different places) from five to fifteen pounds pr cwt.,—Hay from ten to thirty pounds pr Tunn, and Beef & other essentials in this proportion?
The true point of light, then, to place & consider this matter in is, not simply whether Gt. Britain can carry on the war, but whose Finances, (theirs or ours,) is most likely to fail; which leads me to doubt very much the infallibility of the answer given to your second question, respecting the Enemy’s leaving the Continent; for I believe they will not do it, while ever hope and the chapter of accidents can give them a chance of bringing us to terms short of Independence.—But this, you will perhaps say, they are now bereft of. I shall acknowledge that many things favor the idea; but add, that, upon a comparative view of circumstances, there is abundant matter to puzzle & confound the judgment. To your third answer I subscribe with hand and heart. The opening is now fair, and God grant that they may embrace the opportunity of bidding an eternal adieu to our (once quit of them) happy Land. If the Spaniards would but join their Fleets to those of France, & commence hostilities, my doubts would all subside. Without it, I fear the British Navy has it too much in its power to counteract the Schemes of France.
The high prices of every necessary; The little, indeed no benefit, which officers have derived from the intended bounty of Congress in the article of cloathing; The change in the establishment, by which so many of them are discontinued; The unfortunate delay of this business, which kept them too long in suspense, and set a number of evil spirits to work; The unsettled Rank, and contradictory modes of adjusting it,—with other causes, which might be enumerated have conspired to sour the temper of the army exceedingly; and has, I am told, been productive of a memorial or representation of some kind to Congress; which neither directly nor indirectly did I know or even hear was in agitation, till some days after it was despatched; owing, as I apprehend, to the secrecy with which it was conducted to keep it from my knowledge, as I had in a similar instance last spring discountenanced and stifled a child of the same illegitimacy in its birth. If you have any news worth communicating, do not put it under a bushel, but give it to, dear Sir, yours sincerely, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Head-Quarters, 6 October, 1778.
This will be delivered to you by Major-General the Marquis de Lafayette. The generous motives, which first induced him to cross the Atlantic and enter the Army of the United States, are well known to Congress. Reasons equally laudable now engage his return to France, who in her present circumstances claims his services. His eagerness to offer his duty to his prince and Country, however great, could not influence him to quit the continent in any stage of an unfinished campaign. He resolved to remain at least till the close of the present, and embraces this moment of suspense to communicate his wishes to Congress, with a view of having the necessary arrangements made in time, and of being still within reach, should any occasion offer of distinguishing himself in the field.
The Marquis at the same time, from a desire of preserving a relation with us, and a hope of having it yet in his power to be useful as an American officer solicits only a furlough sufficient for the purposes above mentioned. A reluctance to part with an officer, who unites to all the military fire of youth an uncommon maturity of judgment, would lead me to prefer his being absent on this footing, if it depended on me. I shall always be happy to give such a testimony of his services, as his bravery and conduct on all occasions entitle him to; and I have no doubt, that Congress will add suitable expressions of their sense of his merit, and their regret on account of his departure. I have the honor, &c.
P. S. The Marquis is so obliging as to take charge of a Packet containing the Proceedings of a court-martial in General Schuyler’s case.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL GATES.
Head-Quarters, 7th October, 1778.
Your letter of yesterday reached me in the night. Your observations on the probable intentions of the enemy are forcible.1 The capture or destruction of the French fleet appears to be the most important object, they can have on the continent; and it is very possible they may have it in contemplation, though the time they have lost, since they have had the superiority at sea, and the advanced season of the year, are strong arguments against it. Our present disposition was formed on the possibility of such an event, at the same time that it does not lose sight of the security of the North River, or the concentration of our force to repel any attempt upon the army. Though it may not be probable, that the enemy have at present any design against either of these, it would be imprudent to offer them a temptation by diminishing our strength in a considerable detachment, so far Eastward as to be out of supporting distance. If they were able to possess themselves of the Highland passes, and interrupt the navigation of the River, the consequences on the score of subsistence would be terrible, as well to the fleet as the army. It is supposed, the enemy have lost all hopes of effecting any thing material against these States, and this supposition is upheld by powerful reasons; but, after all, the truth of it depends so much upon the contingencies of naval operations and European politics, that it could not be wise to let it essentially influence our military arrangements.
I am taking measures for having all the roads leading towards Boston put in repair for the more convenient march of the several columns, in case a movement Eastward should become necessary. You will therefore be pleased to send a proper fatigue party on the lower route, leading from Danbury to Hartford, so that the column, which may march thence, may not interfere with the others, by falling into the same road, so long as it can be avoided. The column nearest to this will proceed by New Milford, Woodbury, and Waterbury, to Farmington. The repairs are only to be extended through the rough country. You will also send a Quarter-Master forward to observe the good halting-places at proper stages. His report you will communicate to me. I am, Sir, &c.1
TO JOHN PARKE CUSTIS.
Fredg.,in ye State of N. York,
I have now, at your request, given my full consent to the Sale of the Lands which I hold, in right of Dower, in a Tract in the County of York; to a Water Grist mill thereon; To lotts in the City of Williamsburg, and others in Jamestown; as also to yr. Renting or otherwise disposing of ye other Dower Land and Slaves which I am possessed of in the County of King William, upon the terms which have been specifically agreed and subscribed to. But I should think myself wanting in that friendship and regard which I have ever professed for and endeavored to evince toward you, were I to withhold my advice from you with respect to the disposal of them.
A moment’s reflection must convince you of two things; first, that Lands are of permanent value; that there is scarce a possibility of their falling in price, but almost a moral certainty of their rising exceedingly in value. And, secondly, that our Paper currency is fluctuating, that it has depreciated considerably, and that no human foresight can, with precision, tell how low it may get, as the rise, or fall of it depends upon contingencies which the utmost stretch of human sagacity can neither foresee nor prevent. These positions being granted and no one can gainsay the justice of them, it follows that, by parting from your Lands, you give a certainty for an uncertainty, because it is not the nominal Price—It is not ten, fifteen or twenty pounds an acre—but the relative value of this sum to specie, or something of substantial worth, that is to constitute a good price. The inference, therefore, I mean to draw, and the advice I shall give in consequence of it, is this, that you do not convert the Lands you now hold into Cash faster than your present contract with the Alexanders, and a certain prospect of again vesting it in other lands more convenient, requires of you. This will be treading upon sure ground. It will enable you to discharge contracts already entered into, and, in effect, exchange Land for Land; for it is a matter of moonshine to you, considered in that point of view, how much the money depreciates, if you can discharge one pound with another pound, and get Land of equal value to that you sell. But far different from this is the case of those who sell for Cash and keep that Cash by them, put it to interest, or receive it in annual payments; for, in either of these cases, if our currency should unfortunately continue to depreciate in the manner it has done, in the course of the last two years, a pound may not, in the space of two years more, be worth a shilling, the difference of which becomes a clear loss to the possessor and evinces, in a clear point of view the force and efficacy of my advice to you to pay debts, and vest it in something that will retain its primitive value; or rather, in your case, not to part with that thing for money, unless it be with a view to the Investing it in something of equal value; and it accounts at the same time, for the principal upon which I act with respect to my own Interest in the Dower Lands; for I should be wanting to myself, and guilty of an inexcusable act of remission and crimin’l injustice to your mother not to secure an equivalent for her releasement of Dower; and this might be the case of a nominal sum that had no relative value to the thing in question, and which, eventually might be a means of giving away the Estate; for it is not the number of Pounds, but the worth, and what they will fetch, that is to stamp the value of them. Four hundred Pounds in Paper Dollars now is, and I suppose, at the time of parting with this dower, may be worth one hundred pounds in specie; but, two years hence, one hundred pounds in specie, may be worth, and will fetch, one thousand pounds of paper. It can not be reasonable or just, therefore, to expect that I, or your mother (if she should be the survivor) should lose this, when no person, I believe, will undertake to give it as an opinion that the value of the Dower will decrease, but the direct contrary, as lands are increasing in their price every day. This, if you follow the advice here given, can not be the case with you, let money depreciate as it will, because with a pound you pay a pound in discharge of a purchase already made, and for those to be made you can regulate your sales by your purchases.
It may be said that our money will recover a proper tone again, and in that case it would be an advantage to turn Lands, &c, into cash for the benefit of the rise. In answer to this, I shall only observe that this is a lottery; that it may or may not, happen; that, if it should happen, you have lost nothing; if it should not, you have saved your Estate, which in the other case, might have been sunk. Hence it appears that you may play a good and sure game, so far as it relates to yourself, and, so far as it respects me, the advantage is wholly on your side; for instance, if the difference between specie and paper at this time is as four to one, and next year is eight to one, it makes no difference to you, because the presumption is that same Tobo., corn, and other produce, will rise in proportion to the fall of money, and fetch in quantity what it lacks in quality. But, on the other hand, if the Exch. was to be fixed at the present difference of four to one, and should hereafter become as one to one, that is equal, I should get four times as much as I am content to receive, and you would lose it; from hence, as before, you may gain and can not lose, while I get the simple value of the Estate, and can neither gain or lose, which is all I aim at by fixing the value of the dower in specie, to be discharged in any money currt. in the Country at the time of payment, at the prevailing Exchange or difference between specie and paper.
It may possibly be said that this is setting up a distinction between Specie and Paper, and will contribute to its depreciation. I ask if there is a man in the United States that does not make a distinction when four to one is the difference, and whether it is in the power of an individual to check this when Congress, and the several assemblies, are found unequal to the task? Not to require, or contract for, the actual payment in Specie, but to keep this as much out of sight as possible, in common cases that are to have an immediate operation, is all that can be expected; but in a bargain that may exist for twenty years, there should be something to insure mutual advantage, which advantage, though every man can judge of in the transactions of a day, no man can do it when it is to be extended to years, under the present fluctuating state of our Paper Bills of Credit.
My design in being thus particular with you, is to answer two purposes: first, to show my ideas of the impropriety of parting with your own Lands faster than you can vest the money in other lands (comprehending those already purchased); and secondly, to evince to you the propriety of my own conduct in securing to myself and your mother the intrinsic value, neither more nor less, of the Dower Estate.
I have only one piece of advice more to give, and that is, to aim rather at the Exchange than Sale of your Lands; and I think, among those Gentn. mentioned in a former letter, you may find chapmen.
I am with very sincere regard, &c.
TO BRIGADIER-GENERAL ANDREW LEWIS, VIRGINIA.
Fredericksburg,in the State of New York,
Your favor of the 8th of Augt. came safe to my hands, tho’ delayed in the conveyance. I am very glad that the Board prevailed upon you to act as a Commissioner at Fort Pitt, tho’ I am apprehensive the end designed, so far as an Indian treaty was in view, will not be answered by it; and am sorry that you met with so many disappointments in the beginning, on acct. of the non-attendance of the gent. in behalf of Pensylvania.
No man can be more thoroughly impressed with the necessity of offensive operations against Indians, in every kind of rupture with them, than I am; nor can any man feel more sensibly for General McIntosh, than I do, on two accts., the Public and his own. But ours is a kind of struggle designed, I dare say, by Providence to try the patience, fortitude, and virtue of men. None, therefore, who is engaged in it, will suffer himself, I trust, to sink under difficulties, or be discouraged by hardships. General McIntosh is only experiencing upon a small Scale, what I have had an ample share of, upon a large one; and must, as I have been obliged to do in a variety of Instances, yield to necessity; that is, to use a vulgar phraze, “shape his coat according to his cloth,” or, in other words, if he cannot do as he wishes, he must do what he can.
If the Enemy mean to hold their present Posts in the United States, the presumption is, that their operations next Campaign will be vigorous and decisive; because feeble efforts can be of no avail, unless, by a want of virtue, we ruin and defeat ourselves, which I think is infinitely more to be dreaded, than the whole force of G. Britain, assisted as they are [by] Hessian, Indian, and Negro allies; for certain I am, that, unless Extortion, forestalling, and other practices, which have crept in and become exceedingly prevalent and injurious to the common cause, can meet with proper checks, we must inevitably sink under such a load of accumulated oppression. To make and extort money in every shape that can be devised, and at the same time to decry its value, seems to have become a mere business and an epidemical disease, calling for the interposition of every good man and body of men.
We have for more than a month been kept in an awkward state of suspense, on acct. of the Enemy’s preparations for embarking at New York. Many circumstances indicate a total evacuation of that City and its dependencies; others tend more to prove that it is only a partial one. Some time ago I inclined to the former opinion; at present I lean more to the latter. Certain it is they are about to detach Troops, and I believe to the West Indies; but the weight of evidence, in my judgment, is on the side of their garrisoning New York and Rhode Island, this winter at least. In this case, it would appear clear to you, if you knew the circumstances of the army, that no aid, or very trifling, can go from hence to Genl. McIntosh; but I should think that the Frontiers of Virginia, Maryland, and Pensylvania could furnish men fully competent to an Expedition to Detroit, and of such kind as the Service requires. Two very common errors should be avoided in getting them, if militia; namely, not to draw the men together till every thing else is prepared; and, next, not to engage them for too short a time. For Militia are soon tired of waiting, and will return at the expiration of their term of service, if they were upon the eve certainly of reaping the most important advantages.
Before I conclude, let me ask if we have any prospect of getting Lands, which have been Surveyed & located under the proclamation of 1763, but which might not have been patented? This is the case with some that I had in my own right and by purchase. Having had no liezure, even in thought, to attend to the matter for near four years, it would be rather hard upon me therefore under the circumstances to be a loser, or put to difficulty to get my right. Was I not concerned with you in the Burning Spring? Is the land Patented & secured?
If Congress are not convinced of the impropriety of a certain irregular promotion, they are the only sett of Men who require further and greater proofs, than have already been given, of the fallibility of the measure.1
With sincere regard and esteem, I am, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL HEATH.
I wrote to you yesterday enclosing the Resolve of Congress for the removal of the troops of the Convention to Virginia. I find, upon perusing the Resolve more attentively, that Sir Henry Clinton had, & by the Resolve of the 11 of Septr., recited in that of the 15 Inst.—the choice of either granting passports to transport Flour by Water, or to supply the troops himself by the 5th Inst. If neither has been complied with, then the removal is to take place. The first request we know has never been granted, and I imagine no steps have been taken to supply the troops from New York or else where. If there have agreeable to the Letter and Spirit of the Resolution they are to remain where they now are. If not, they are to be sent forward in the manner pointed out in mine of yesterday.1
I have certain advices that the fleet left Sandy Hook the 19th and 20th. The first division consisted of upwards of one hundred and twenty sail, of which fifteen were of the line and ten or twelve frigates. The second division about thirty sail, of which two were of fifty guns, and two frigates. They stood Eastward. Whether the remaining Ships and troops are to remain at New York, I have not yet been able to ascertain.
I think it would be prudent, under the present appearances, for you to call for five thousand militia, including those already in service. Although I am myself persuaded, that the late embarkation is not intended against Boston, I would not, for the sake of opinion, put any thing to the Risque. That force, with the Count’s own strength and General Sullivan’s, will prevent the Enemy, should they be bound thither, from doing any thing decisive before the troops upon their march can get up. It is more than probable, that the British fleet of men of war will appear off Boston, to keep the Count in check, altho’ the destination of the transports may be to any other port. I do not think it will be needful to call for this addition to the militia in their regular course of service, or for any certain time. Those from the vicinity of Boston had better come out for a few days, as in that time the views of the enemy will be known. I am, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
* * * * * *
With respect to seditious papers, calculated to excite dissensions and mislead the people, Congress may be assured, that whenever they may be sent from the enemy by a flag, and they come to my hands, I shall not fail to suppress them. I fear, however, the avenues and channels in which they may be conveyed are so various and so numerous, that no exertions will be found sufficient entirely to prevent the evil.1
Having mentioned the subject of seditious papers, I beg leave to observe, that the commissioners in their late proclamation and manifesto have touched upon every thing to awaken the fears of the people. They have thrown out an implied threat to change the manner of the war to one of a more predatory and destructive kind. They may have done this only in terrorem; but it is possible that it may be intended as a serious principle of practice. It perhaps may not be improvident to guard against it, by fortifying our most valuable and most accessible seaports. Immediately after the action at Monmouth, I sent General Duportail to form a plan of fortification for the Delaware. While he was in the execution of this task, he was called away at General Lee’s instance as a witness in his trial. After this was over, I thought it was necessary that he should turn his attention to the Highland posts; and lately the possibility of an enterprise against the French fleet and the town of Boston determined me to send him to that place, to take measures for their common security. Previous to this, however, he had sent Colonel Laumoy to prepare the way, by taking plans of the river and the adjacent country near Philadelphia. These points I deemed it material to mention; and I submit to Congress the propriety, as Colonel Laumoy is not yet returned, of their directing a number of men to prosecute the defences. * * *
October 23d. I have the honor to transmit a copy of Lieutenant-Colonel Butler’s journal, which I just now received from General Stark. Congress will perceive by this, that he has effectually destroyed the settlements of Anaquaga and Unadilla, and returned with the troops under his command to Schoharie. I hope their destruction will give some relief to the frontier inhabitants of this and the States of Jersey and Pennsylvania, at least for this year, as they were places of rendezvous for the savages and Tories, who infested them, and where they deposited a part of their plunder. * * *
I have the honor, &c.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
The letter, which I had the honor of addressing to you the day before yesterday, would inform Congress of the embarkation and sailing of a considerable detachment of the enemy from New York, and of the measures I had taken, in expectation of—and upon the happening of the event. Whether this will be succeeded by a further embarkation, or by a total evacuation of the posts, which they hold within the States, in the course of this year or the ensuing one, I cannot pretend to determine.1 But as it will be right and prudent in us to prepare for every contingency, I would, with the greatest deference, submit it to Congress, whether it may not be proper for them to call upon the States to provide Men in time for filling their respective Battalions before, or at any rate against, the opening of the Spring, and in the same manner, as if there was a moral certainty that the War would be prosecuted with all possible vigor on the part of Britain. Should this not be the case, or should any events cast up in the mean time to render Troops unnecessary, it will be easy to disband the levies and to keep them from the field—which on the other hand, our relaxations in not providing them, may subject us, at least, to many disagreeable consequences.
The general Return of the Infantry in the Month of September, transmitted to the Board of War by the Adjutant General and to which I beg leave to refer, will shew Congress the whole amount of our reputed force at that time, but I am to observe, that large, very large, deductions are to be made from it, on account of the Columns of sick and the men said to be on command. Many under the former description, particularly that of sick absent, are actually dead—others unfit for service, and several, who have recovered, have deserted: nor will the latter afford more than one half of its number in time of Action, as various duties such as waggoning, distant Guards, Escorts, &c. employ a great proportion of those under this denomination.
Besides the above deductions, Congress will perceive from the Return which I now take the liberty of transmitting that there are 4380 Drafts and others whose terms of service will expire during and by the close of Winter. For I am sorry to add that our exertions to re-engage the Drafts and old Soldiers, in this predicament for the usual Bounty have proved so far ineffectual and without success. I have not tried what effect the additional Grant of ten dollars might have; but I fear, and it seems to be the opinion of all I have consulted upon the occasion that it would have but little if any influence. I know in the case of the Drafts and troops of our State, that the offer of twenty dollars on the part of the Continent with a like allowance and an actual deposit of it by the State has been no temptation.
This general reluctance and refusal is founded in the unhappy depreciated light in which the Soldiery view the money, and their expectation of receiving immense State, District and Substitute Bounties—Whether grants or bounties by Congress, bearing some proportion to them, to such as should enlist for the War would be attended with better success. I cannot undertake to decide. The experiment may be made, if they judge it proper, and if it proves an inducement to any extent, it will be an infinite saving in the end. I believe, however, our surest and only certain aids will be derived from drafting.—Which I trust may and will be done by the States on the recommendation of Congress, agreeable to the mode mentioned in my letter to their Committee, when they first honored me with a visit at Valley Forge. The exertions to recruit by voluntary inlistments may still go on, as both modes in all probability will not produce near as many men as may be found necessary.
In the case of the Carolina Troops, whose service is ending every day, the Officers say—that nothing will induce them to inlist, unless they can be permitted to go home on furlough till the Spring. On this indulgence they seem to think, several might be engaged. The distance is great, and there will be some uncertainty as to their returning, besides it will be fixing a precedent for others. If Congress approve the plan, they will be pleased to inform me by the earliest opportunity.
I am under some difficulty about cloathing the drafts and the old Soldiers whose service is expiring and will determine every day. As Congress have never expressed their sense upon the subject, and this is increased by a letter which I received some time ago from the Board of War, which respects particularly the drafts; I must earnestly request that Congress will favor me with the speediest directions in the case. Whether they are to be furnished out of the supplies coming on, equally with the other troops. At the same time I will take the liberty to offer it as my opinion, that however inconvenient or expensive it may appear at the first view to cloath them, the measure will be necessary, and founded not only in humanity but sound policy. We have no prospect now of levying men in any other way, and if they are not cloathed, they will be exhausted by sickness and death, and not doing it may prove an insurmountable Bar—or at least a great obstacle to our obtaining future aids—tho’ the Exigencies of our Affairs should be never so pressing. Yet the Cloaths may be withheld as long as circumstances will permit, as an inducement for then to inlist. In the instance of the old Soldiers, who have not received the annual allowance of Congress, the point seems clearly in their favor. The Board suggested, that the drafts might be supplied out of the best of the old Cloaths, which might be given in by the troops on receiving new ones; but unfortunately there will be few of any worth. I have, &c.
TO MR. JAMES HILL.
Fredericksburg,in the State of New York,
Your Letter of the 5th of Septr. came to my hands a Post or two ago.—I thank you for your offer to look after the Plantation I held in King William, but having rented it to Mr. Custis I have no longer occasion for the superintendance of a Manager, there or elsewhere, in the lower part of Virginia, and have to request that all the money you now possess or may hereafter receive of mine before you quit Mr. Custis’s business, may be sent to Mr. Lund Washington by him or some other safe hand.—And before you remove from your present employment I must further beg that you will furnish me with an exact acct. of every thing sold from and purchased for my Estate under your care.—In short the exact state of all expenditures, and sales for my use, since the last account, which I settled with you myself—and, as Letters are subject to miscarriage, I shall be obliged to you to leave a copy thereof, with a list of Ballances due me (if any there should be) with Mr. Custis, that I may, in case of accidents, be provided with another copy from him.—When I speak of a list of Ballances, I hope and trust, there will be few or none—first from your care in making your collections, and next from the plenty of money, which leaves every person without even the shadow of excuse to withhold payment of Debts at this time.—But if the case should be otherwise, a list of those Debts properly settled, and reduced to specialties (to avoid disputes in the collection by a new hand, unacquainted with the transaction, and unable to account for things which would not be disputed with you), left with Mr. Custis, will enable him or some other Person in my behalf to receive payment of the money with such Interest as may be due on the Bonds or Bills.
I have no doubt of your care and attention in this business—I have ever viewed you in the light of an honest man, and doubt not but that your last transactions with me will confirm me in this opinion yet, I cannot help observg that from what I have been able to learn, I have derived very little profit from that part of my Estate which has been under your care for the three or four last years, but as I am not Inclined to go into an investigation of the matter at present, I would rather attribute it to bad seasons and other causes, than to the want of your good will.—
I observe what you say respecting your wages for looking after Mr. Custis’s Estate; if my memory does not fail me the first agreement I made with you was reduced to writing, and the conditions specifically defined—After this, and some little time before I left Virginia, you complained that your pay was too small, and either required an augmentation or some Indulgences as an equivalent.
In answer, to the best of my recollection, I told you that as your trouble was like to be increased by the late purchases of Mr. Black, that I should not object to some further reasonable allowance, provided it should appear that your conduct, the good order of the Plantations, and crops would justifie me in so doing.—How far these conditions have been complied with on your part, is impossible for me at this distance and undr. my circumstances to determine, but as to your claim of merit, and an allowance for the Butter sold, because Mr. Valentine applied the greatest part, or all of what was made on the Estate to his own private emolument it is quite new and novel.
If the case was so, which I do not believe and think his accounts will show the contrary, it does not follow that because one man cheated that another is to be paid to the amount of the fraud for being honest.—The same reasoning will apply to Corn—Tobacco—and other articles.
I am very sure that if Valentine had such a privilege it was self granted; and that, was he now living, he might be brought to a severe account for the misapplication of the money. I am also clear that he never had an oz. of sugar or gill of rum in the world found him by agreement.—These articles were laid in for the use of sick Negroes, and if he made use of it for his own purposes, the greater villain he must be.
You further remark that you think your wages should rise in proportion to the depreciation of the money. Permit me to ask whether you have sold the produce of the Estate in proportion to the depreciation? and whether the expenses have not kept pace thereto? and lastly, whether during these times of common distress, you are not living at the cost of another Man? while you are raising and saving from your own Estate. These are matters not unworthy of consideration altho’ I do not mean by propounding these questions that it should be infer’d that your wages ought not to be raised from the original agreement agreeable to the spirit and meaning of my assurances to you.—It was my intention (under the conditions before mentioned) that they should; and if Mr. Custis and you cannot agree on the quantum, I know of no mode so just and equitable as leaving the matter to impartial men to determine who can have no Interest in the decision; for it is impossible for me at this distance, and perplexed as I am with other business, to go into such enquiries as are necessary to enable me to form a proper judgment, and without this I might do an injury to one side or the other, to neither of which am I at all disposed.
I am, &c.
P. S. I have understood that till Mrs. Washington was at my Plantation at Clairborne’s in August and directed or rather advised the Beeves and Corn to be sold, that no steps were taken to do it, in short that you were very seldom at or gave yourself much trouble about the Plantation. Mr. Custis will I expect, take every thing that is now on it at an appraised value—Corn as well as other things, which will ease you of every kind of trouble of that sort. The Tobacco I trust will be prized and Inspected without a moment’s loss of time and the notes put into Colo. Bassett’s hands (after Davenport has recd. his share), to be sold for my use.
TO COUNT D’ESTAING.
27th October, 1778.
I have read your Excellency’s two favors of the 18th and 21st instant, with all the pleasure, which the perusal of your letters never fails to inspire, and which naturally attends the communications of those in whom we are interested. I rejoice with you in the prospect of your being so soon in a state to resume the sea. I cannot but ardently desire, that an opportunity may be soon offered you of again exerting that spirit of well-directed activity and enterprise, of which you have already given proofs so formidable to our enemies, and so beneficial to the common cause.
It is to be hoped our next accounts from Europe will manifest, that the court of Spain has properly estimated the value of the present moment, and has united her power to that of France, to give a decisive blow to the haughty dominion, which Britain has so long affected to maintain over the sea. The satisfaction I feel, in looking forward to this event, is augmented by anticipating the illustrious part I am persuaded you will act in accomplishing it. My letter of the 24th will, I hope, have removed Your Excellency’s apprehensions for our amiable young friend. Every day’s continuance where he now is, is an additional confirmation of my conjecture on the manner in which his proposal has been received. It was natural that your sensibility should be affected as it was. A generous solicitude for the safety of a friend, so far from requiring an apology, is entitled to applause.
The British commissioners, I believe, will not trouble us with any more of their harangues. They authorize us to consider the last as a farewell speech, preparatory to their final exit. They will not need our aid to accelerate their political death. Whether they may not undergo a transmigration, of the sort Your Excellency mentions, time will discover. More unlikely things than this sometimes happen. The enemy’s affairs in New York remain without any perceptible alterations from the state in which they were when I had the honor of writing you last. Their troops, which have embarked, still lie in the harbor. I have, &c.
TO BURWELL BASSETT.
Fredericksburg,in the State of New York,
By Mr. Custis I took the liberty of requesting the favor of you to set a value upon the Stock of every kind belonging to me at Claiborne’s except the Horses and Plantation Utensils, which I gave him—I have since wrote to him (of this date) proposing that he should take all the Corn, Wheat, and Provender for the Cattle, so soon as it can be ascertained, at such prices as you shall affix; and if he agrees to it, I shall be much obliged to you for conferring this additional favor on me.—It will be better for both of us that there should be but one Interest on the Plantation; and that the property thereon should not be seperated which necessarily would be the case if he was to stock it for the use of the Negroes and Cattle, while the grain and provender raised thereon remained mine, and kept distinct from his, waiting for occasional markets. The latter I expect Mrs. Washington will require for her own use; and I hope and trust, that the Tobacco will be stripped, prized, and Inspected with all dispatch possible, after which, and paying Davenport his share, I have directed Mr. Hill to put the rest into your hands, and shall be obliged to you for selling it for me in the same manner and at the same time you do your own.
I shall make no appology, My dear Sir, for giving you this trouble, especially as Mrs. Washington in a late Letter informed me that you have been so obliging as to assure her, that you would readily render me any services of this kind in your power, which indeed I had no doubt of before, or I should not have asked assistance of you.
I have understood that some choice Bull calves of the English kind were selected at Claiborne’s, to breed from.—I beg you to accept one of the best as a present from me. These being descended from Mr. Custis’s English Bull are much more valuable than common Calves of the same age, inasmuch as they will improve the breed.
We still remain in a disagreeable state of suspense respecting the Enemy’s determinations—there are reasons for and against a total evacuation of New York. I ought rather to have said there are circumstances and evidence for and against it;—for reason will allow no alternative, so clearly does it point out the propriety of relinquishing their Ideal projects of bringing the United States to their terms.—A few days must I think unfold their views as they have been & now are busily Imployed in imbarking Troops, stores, &ca. most of which have fallen down to Sandy hook.—The West Indies is the supposed place of destination for this armament.—My compliments to all enquiring friends. I am, &c.
TO COUNT D’ESTAING,
Head Qrs.,Fredericksburgh, 31st October, 1778.
I have had the happiness of receiving your Excellency’s letters of the 23 and 26th.—I thank you for the extract of Mr. Boubie’s letter, which Yr. Excellency so obligingly communicates. His particular enumeration of the vessels of war which sailed with the fleet he mentions, corresponds with the advices I have received; but you will have been informed before this, that the supposed sailing of a body of troops in that fleet was a mistake of the same nature into which my observers fell. It was however the most natural one, that can be imagined, and such as might impose itself on the most careful circumspection.—I have the honor to inclose copies of four letters which contain the most recent and authentic information I have collected.
I shall not be surprised if, in a little time, Admiral Byron should make a demonstration before the harbor of Boston, deriving confidence from the superiority of his force. His apprehensions of your Excellency’s activity may suggest this measure, to cover the movements which the enemy are making off the coast.
Your Excellency’s sentiments give value to my own, on the utility of some well combined system of fortification for the security of our principal seaport towns. The predatory war, which the enemy threaten, and have actually carried on, in several instances, and which they no doubt have the disposition, when they have the opportunity, to repeat, give additional force to the other reasons for a measure of that nature.
I impatiently expect the arrival of Mr. Holker, to confer with him on the important objects with which he will be charged. I shall cautiously observe the secrecy you desire. Col. Hamilton’s high respect for your Excellency cannot permit him to be insensible to so flattering a mark of your confidence and friendship, as the exception in his favor affords.1 I received a letter yesterday from the Marquis. He gives me to hope the pleasure of seeing him to-morrow. He also intimates, that Lord Carlisle has not only declined his proposition for the present, but, by a prudent foresight, has provided against the necessity of reviving the question at any future period. With the warmest esteem and most respectful attachment, I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Head-quarters, 11 November, 1778.
On Wednesday afternoon I received a letter from the Honble. Mr. Lee and Mr. Lovell, of the committee for foreign affairs, inclosing a plan and sundry resolutions of Congress for attacking Canada the next campaign, in conjunction with the forces of his most Christian Majesty; and requesting my observations upon the same, to be transmitted to Congress, and a copy to be delivered to the Marquis de la Fayette. These despatches, thro’ the indisposition of the Marquis, who unfortunately was seized with a fever in his journey from Philadelphia, which still detains him at Fishkill, were prevented coming to hand till that time, and the great importance and extent of the subject they comprehend, would not permit me the honor of an earlier communication of my sentiments.
I hope Congress will excuse my not complying with that part of the Resolution, which requires me to deliver a copy of my observations to the Marquis, as the manner in which I am obliged to treat the subject, opens such a prospect of our wants and our weaknesses, as in point of policy ought only to be known to ourselves.
I am always happy to concur in sentiment with Congress, and I view the emancipation of Canada, as an object very interesting to the future prosperity and tranquility of these States; but I am sorry to say, the plan proposed for the purpose does not appear to me to be eligible under our present circumstances. I consider it as my duty, and what Congress will expect from me, to give my reasons for this opinion, with that frankness and candor, which the importance of the subject demands; and in doing this, I am persuaded I shall not fail to meet with their approbation.
It seems to me impolitic to enter into engagements with the Court of France for carrying on a combined operation of any kind, without a moral certainty of being able to fulfil our part, particularly if the first proposal came from us. If we should not be able to perform them, it would argue either a want of consideration, a defective knowledge of our resources, or something worse than either; which could not fail to produce a degree of distrust and discontent, that might be very injurious to the Union. In the present instance should the scheme proposed be adopted, a failure on our part would certainly occasion in them a misapplication of a considerable land and naval force, which might be usefully employed elsewhere; and probably their total loss. It is true, if we were at this time to enter into the engagement, we shall be every day better able to judge, whether it will be in our power to accomplish what would be expected from us; and if we should find hereafter, that our resources will be unequal to the undertaking, we may give notice to the Court of France in season, to prevent the sailing of the troops, and the ill effects which might attend it. But, besides that a project of this kind could not be embraced by France, without its having an influence on the whole system of operations for the next campaign, which of course would receive some derangement from its being abandoned. A renunciation of this could not fail to give a very unfavorable impression of our foresight and providence, and would serve to weaken the confidence of that Court in our public councils.
So far from there being a moral certainty of our complying with our engagements, it may in my opinion, be very safely pronounced, that if the enemy keep possession of their present posts at New York and Rhode Island, it will be impracticable either to furnish the men, or the other necessary supplies for prosecuting the plan. They will not attempt to keep those posts with less than ten thousand men and a considerable navy. If it should be thought best, for the advantage of carrying on the expeditions intended, to forego any offensive operations against these garrisons, and to leave them in quiet possession of such important places, we shall at least be obliged to provide for the security of the country against their incursions and depredations, by keeping up a force sufficient to confine them within their own limits. It is natural, too, to suppose, that the people’s expectations of being protected will flow stronger in proportion to the diminution of the enemy’s force, and the greater facility with which it can be afforded. They will hardly be content to continue in a state of alarm and insecurity from a force so inconsiderable, while the principal strength of the States is drawn out in the prosecution of remote objects. If this reasoning is just, we shall be obliged to have a larger force than the enemy, posted in different places, to prevent sudden inroads, which they would otherwise be able to make at different points; and the number required cannot be estimated at less than 12 or 15,000 men. This will be two thirds as large a force, as we have been able to raise and maintain during the progress of the war—as these calculations, both of the enemy’s strength and of our own, are meant to designate the number of effective rank and file.
If I rightly understand the plan in consideration, it requires for its execution 12,600 men, rank and file. Besides these to open passages through a wilderness for the march of the several bodies of troops, to provide the means of long and difficult transportations by land and water; to establish posts of communication for the security of our convoys; to build and man vessels of force, necessary for acquiring a superiority on the Lakes;—these and many other purposes, peculiar to these enterprises, which would be tedious in detail, will demand a much larger proportion of artificers and persons to be employed in manual and laborious offices, than are usual in the ordinary course of military operations. When we add the whole together, the aggregate number of men requisite for the service of the ensuing campaign, will be little less than double the number heretofore in the field; but to be more certain in the calculation, it may be placed at only one half more.
Experience is the only rule to judge by in the present case. Every expedient has been exhausted in the preceding campaigns to raise men, and it was found impossible to get together a greater force than we had, though the safety and success of the cause seemed absolutely to require it. The natural and direct inference therefore is, that the resources of the country were inadequate to a larger supply. I cannot then see that we can hope upon any principle, to be equal to so much greater exertions next year, when the people and the army appear to grow daily more tired of the war, and the depreciation of our money continually increasing, and of consequence proving a smaller temptation to induce men to engage.
The state of our supplies for transporting and subsisting the troops will stand upon a footing equally bad. We have encountered extreme difficulties in these respects and have found, that it was full as much as we were competent to, to feed the army we have already had, and enable it to keep the field, and perform the movements required by the contingencies of the service. It is not likely that these difficulties will diminish, but on the contrary they will rather multiply, as the value of our currency lessens; and the enormous prices to which provisions have risen and the artificial scarcity created by monopolies, with what we have to fear from the effect of the same spirit, give us no reason to flatter ourselves, that our future prospects can be much better. In this situation of things we are hardly warranted to expect, that we shall have it in our power to satisfy the demands of numbers so much greater, than we have yet had to supply; especially if we consider that the scene of our operations has hitherto been in the heart of the country furnishing our resources, and which of course facilitated the drawing them out; and that we shall then be carrying on the war at an immense distance, in a country wild and uncultivated, incapable of affording any aid, and great part of it hostile. We cannot in this case depend on temporary or occasional supplies, as we have been accustomed, but must have ample magazines laid up before hand. The labor and expence in forming these, and transporting the necessary stores of every kind for the use of the troops, will be increased to a degree that can be more easily conceived than described. The transportation must be a great part of the way through deserts, affording no other forage than herbage; and from this circumstance, our principal subsistence of the flesh kind must be salted, which would not only be an additional expence, in the additional consumption of so scarce and dear an article as salt, but would greatly increase the difficulty both of providing and transporting. My letter of the 29th Ulto., transmitting a copy of one from the Quartermaster-General, which I had the honor of addressing to Congress and to which I wish to refer, will point out the difficulties and daily expence attending our supplies of the article of flour only, in our present circumstances, exclusive of its cost, and lay the foundation for a sort of comparative estimate to be formed, of those that would attend the support of the troops, when employed at so great a distance.
If in addition to all this, we should have the French fleet to supply during the winter, the likelihood of which I have no sufficient information to ground a judgment upon, it will appear still more impracticable to furnish the supplies requisite for the extensive operations proposed. But independent of this, the improbability of it is, in my apprehension, implicitly too great to justify the undertaking.
This reasoning is found on a supposition that the enemy do not evacuate their present posts at New York and Rhode Island; nor can we presume upon any past appearances so far as to determine the contrary, and enter into a national contract, the fulfilment of which, at any rate in my judgment, will depend on this event. Opinions on the subject are various, and the arguments on both sides cogent,—circumstances hitherto very indecisive. At Rhode Island, there is nothing that looks like an evacuation, that I have heard of; at New York the length of time elapsed since the event has been expected, which cannot be satisfactorily accounted for, makes it not a little doubtful and problematical.
But if it were even certain, that the enemy would shortly leave these States, I should think our ability to carry on the expeditions meditated from the nature of the country and the remoteness from the source of our supplies, joined to the discouraging state of our finances too precarious to authorize a preconcerted agreement with a foreign power, binding ourselves to the attempt.
On the other hand, if we were certain of doing our part, a co-operation by the French would, in my opinion, be as delicate and precarious an enterprize, as can be imagined. All the reasons which induce France and the United States to wrest Canada from the dominion of England operate with her, perhaps more forcibly to use every possible effort for their defence. The loss of them would be a deadly blow to her trade and empire. To hope to find them in a defenceless state, must be founded in a supposition of the total incapacity of Britain, both by land and sea, to afford them protection. I should apprehend we may run into a dangerous error by estimating her power so low.
We have been informed that a strong garrison has been lately sent to Halifax, amounting by report to about 4,000 men. A part of the detachments, which the enemy are now making from New York are currently said to be, and in all probability are, destined for that place. If they evacuate entirely, a very considerable part of their force will no doubt go there; and in any case we may expect, that re-inforcements will be thrown from thence into Canada, early in the spring. The English are now greatly superior to the French by sea in America, and will from every appearance continue so, unless Spain interpose—an event, which I do not know we are authorized to count upon. However, as I am destitute of information with respect to the state of European politics, this is a point upon which I can form but an imperfect judgment. But if it should not take place, I think it infinitely probable, from the maritime situation and advantages of Halifax, which is represented as the finest port and best naval arsenal in America, from the security it is calculated to give to the general trade and possessions of Britain, both on the continent and in the West Indies, that it will be a station for a larger naval force than the one intended to convoy the French troops. It will naturally be the principal rendezvous of the British ships of war in America. If this position be admitted, should the English have any knowledge or even suspicion of the designs of the French Court to send a fleet up the river St. Lawrence, nothing will be easier than to intercept this fleet on its way, or to take or destroy it, after it has gotten in.
Nor can we flatter ourselves with keeping this business a secret. Congress perhaps will be surprised to be told, that it is already in more hands than they suspect, and, in the progress of the negotiation in France, it will get in many more. The preparations will announce the intention. It is indeed a part of the plan to avow the destination of the French troops, though this is to be contradicted by the manner of their clothing, &c. The stationing troops this winter, as is proposed, particularly on the Mohawk and Connecticut river, would be unequivocal proofs of the design. It must at least excite the strongest suspicions, so as to put the English nation upon their guard, and make them take precautions to counteract it.
But if the French troops should arrive before Quebec, I think their success against the strong places, fortified by every advantage of nature and of art, would be extremely doubtful. It is supposed this capital post will be found in so weak a condition as to make its surrender a matter of course, owing to the enemy’s having previously drained themselves for the defence of Detroit, Niagara, St. Johns, Montreal, &c. But, we cannot depend that this will be the case. They may esteem it the part of prudence rather to sacrifice, or at least to hazard the extremities, in order to collect their strength at the heart. Montreal indeed, and the posts essential to it, must be defended, because the possession of them would throw too large a part of the country into our hands. But if re-inforcements are sent to Canada early in the spring, a circumstance extremely likely, these may be attended to, without too far weakening the garrison of Quebec; and, as before observed, we cannot build upon their conduct’s being regulated by an ignorance of our plans. The French troops instead of a coup de main would, in this case, be reduced to the necessity of carrying on a blockade.
I will now take the liberty to turn my attention towards the operations of our own troops. The one against Detroit, I shall at present say nothing about. If well conducted, I should hope that place would fall without very great difficulty. The case is very different with respect to Niagara. This, I am informed, is one of the strongest fortresses in America; and can only be reduced by regular approaches or by famine. In accomplishing this last war, and a conquest as far as Montreal, I believe, General Amherst exhausted two campaigns, with all the advantages which he derived from the united efforts of Britain and America, with every convenience for water transportation, including plenty of seamen, and with money that commanded every thing that either country could furnish. The former mode would require great perseverance, time, and labor, and an apparatus which it would be almost impracticable to transport. The latter is practicable, but very difficult. To effect it we must gain a superiority on the lakes. The enemy have already a respectable force there. If they suspect our design, which they cannot fail to do from the measures to be taken, they may improve the interval in adding to it, and, by providing materials and artificers upon the spot, they may be able to increase it, so as to keep pace with us. It is therefore easy to see that we ought not to be too sanguine in the success of this expedition; and that, if a moderate force be employed in the defence of Niagara, without degarnishing Quebec and the intermediate posts, its reduction will be a very arduous task.
The body of troops to penetrate by way of the river St. Francis, must meet with great obstacles. They will have a march of about 150 miles from ye Co-os, which is about 160 beyond Hartford, a great part of which is through a hitherto uninhabited and trackless country, with an immense train of wagons. All the stores and provisions for the whole march, and the future supply of the troops, at least till they should get footing in Canada, must accompany them from the beginning. The impediments and delays in such a march, almost exceed conception. When arrived at the St. Lawrence, fresh obstacles probably would present themselves. The presumption is, that if the enemy could not make head there, they would desolate the country, through which they were to pass, destroy all the provision and forage, remove every kind of water craft, and demolish the materials for building others. These precautions being taken on the Sorel and St. Lawrence would pretty effectually obstruct our progress both to Montreal and Cadoroqui, to say nothing of the rapidity of the current, and the numerous rifts between Montreal and Lagalette. When we deliberately consider all the obstacles in the execution, and the difficulties we shall find in preparing the vast magazines required, which have been already enumerated, if within the compass of our resources, we shall be led to think it not very improbable, that this body may be unable to penetrate Canada, at least in time to co-operate with the French troops, if a co-operation should be necessary. The situation of these troops, then, would be delicate and dangerous. Exposed to a defeat from the united force of the enemy, in great danger of having their retreat cut off by a superior naval force, in the river, they would have every thing to fear.
On the other hand if our operation should be as successful as we may flatter ourselves, a tempest or a British fleet may deprive us of the expected aid; and, at a critical moment we may find ourselves in the bosom of an enemy’s country, obliged to combat their whole force, with one inferior, and reduced by a tedious and wasting march. The five thousand men, when they arrived in Canada, would probably little exceed four capable of service, and would be still less, if, out of them, we should establish posts as we advanced to ensure a retreat, and protect escorts of provisions, which must follow for future support. Thus an accident in either case, would involve the defeat of the whole project, and the catastrophe might be attended with the most unhappy consequences to America.
The plan proposed appears to me not only too extensive and beyond our abilities, but too complex. To succeed, it requires such a fortunate coincidence of circumstances as could hardly be hoped, and cannot be relied on: the departure of the enemy from these States, without which we cannot furnish the stipulated force or supplies to maintain them; such a want of power or want of foresight in the enemy as will oblige them to neglect the re-inforcements of Halifax and of Canada and prevent them, however conveniently situated, of disputing the passage of four ships of the line and four frigates up the River St. Lawrence, or attempting their destruction afterwards; such a combination of favorable incidents, as will enable several bodies, acting separately and independently by sea and land, and from different countries, to conform to times and periods so as to ensure a co-operation—these and many other circumstances must conspire, to give success to the enterprize.
Congress I am persuaded had powerful reasons for fixing the convoy at the number they have, and their superior information respecting the affairs of Europe at this juncture, enables them to judge much better than I can pretend to do, of its sufficiency. But, from the imperfect view I have of the matter, I have been led, in considering the subject, to look upon it as insufficient. From the general tenor of intelligence, the English outnumber the French in the Channel. In America, both on the Continent and in the Islands, they are greatly superior. If the last Toulon fleet is employed in the Mediterranean, the French may have the superiority there; but upon the whole the balance of naval force seems hitherto to be on the side of the English. If we add to this, that the number of ships of war in the French ports, built or building, bears no comparison to the number in the English ports; and that Britain, notwithstanding the diminution she has suffered, is still a kingdom of great maritime resources, we shall be disposed to conclude, that the preponderance is too likely to continue where it is. The interposition of Spain indeed, would make a very interesting change; but her backwardness heretofore, seems to be an argument that she is withheld from interfering, by some weighty political motives; and how long these may continue to restrain her, is a question I am unqualified to determine.
Besides these general objections to the plan which have been stated, there appear to me to be some particular ones, which I shall take the liberty to point out.
In the first place, I observe there are to be 5000 militia employed in the two expeditions against Detroit and Niagara. The training into service so large a number composed chiefly of husbandmen, in addition to what may be found necessary for other exigencies on the coast at so interesting a season of the year, will certainly be very injurious to the culture of our lands, and must tend to add to the deficiency supplies. But this, tho’ not to be overlooked, is not the principal objection. In the expedition against Detroit, militia perhaps may answer, as it is not a post of very great strength, and may possibly be abandoned on, or in a little time after, the approach of a force, that cannot be opposed in the field, and the garrison proceed to reinforce that of Niagara; but even here, troops of another kind would be far preferable. However, the case will be very different with respect to the last. It is, as I have beforementioned, one of the strongest fortresses of America and demands for its reduction the very best of troops. Militia have neither patience nor perseverance for a siege. This has been demonstrated by all the experience we have had. An attempt to carry on one which should materially depend on them, would be liable to be frustrated by their inconstancy, in the most critical moments. Agreeable to the plan under consideration, 3,500 out of 5,600 are to be militia.
It is a part of the plan, that the troops sent against Detroit, whether successful or not, are to form a junction with those at Niagara. It appears to me on the contrary that the expedition against Detroit, under the present arrangement must stand on its own bottom, and have no other object than the reducing that place, and destroying the adjacent Indian settlements. Lake Erie is certainly occupied by two armed vessels of sixteen and eighteen guns, and it is said by five or six others of smaller size, having two, three, and four guns each, which, while the enemy hold Niagara, will prevent the communication of our troops by way of the Lake, to say nothing of the want of batteaus for transportation. A communication by land must be performed through an extent of more than 400 miles, and a great part of this at least under many disadvantages of route, and thro’ tribes of hostile Indians.
My knowledge of the country is not sufficiently accurate to enable me to discover the reasons which determined Congress to divide the force destined against Niagara, and to appoint the march of one body from Ononguaga to that place. It seems to me, however, that this disposition might be subject to one great inconvenience, which is, that if each column be not superior to the whole collective force of the enemy, they risk being beaten separately and successively, besides the trouble and expence of preparing, as it were, for two expeditions instead of one, of opening two roads instead of one, and the uncertainty of a co-operation, if no disaster should happen to either, at the moment when it might be necessary. The inquiries I have as yet had it in my power to make, are opposed to the practicability of conveying cannon in the route from Ononguaga to Niagara, or at least place it as a point infinitely doubtful; and without cannon, nothing can be effected against that post. Upon the whole, the great matter essential to success against Niagara, is to subdue the enemy’s force on Lake Erie and Ontario, particularly the latter. This once done and the garrison by that mean cut off from its supplies, the fort will be likely to fall an easy prey. Here our efforts should be directed; nor do I at present perceive the purposes to be answered by the body going from Ononguaga, unless the devastation of the intermediate Indian villages be the object, which perhaps might not be equal to the risk, labor, and expence; and the more so, as they would fall of course, if we should succeed in the general operation.
The cantoning five thousand troops this winter on Connecticut River, under our present prospects will, in my opinion, be impracticable, and, in any case, inadvisable. When I had the honor of writing Congress in September last, on the subject of a winter campaign into Canada, I had been led by General Bayley and other gentlemen acquainted with the country, to expect that very considerable magazines of provisions might be laid up, on the upper parts of that river; but it appears on experiment, that their zeal for the expedition had made them much too sanguine in the matter. The purchases fall far, very far, short of what was expected. The difficulties of transportation as represented by the Quarter Masters and Commissaries, supported by facts that speak for themselves, are so great and complicated, that I should have no hope of our being able from remote parts of the continent to throw in the quantity requisite for the subsisting these troops during the winter, and, at the same time, of forming the magazines which would be necessary to prosecute the expedition in the spring. We may be endeavoring to form the magazines; but the troops cannot be on the spot this winter; otherwise they will exhaust the provision as fast as it can be collected. The same objection appears to the stationing troops on the Mohawk River.
In estimating our force for the next campaign, it is to be considered, that upwards of four thousand of the present army will have completed their term of service by the last of May next, and that a great proportion of the remainder will have done the same about the close of the ensuing fall; unless they can be induced to re-engage, of which the ill-success of our present exertions to inlist those, whose engagements are about to expire, affords but an infavorable prospect. This, and the general temper of the officers, dissatisfied much with their situation, will suggest a strong argument against the extensive projects in contemplation.
In whatever point of light the subject is placed, our ability to perform our part of the contract appears to me infinitely too doubtful and precarious to justify the undertaking. A failure, as I have already observed, would involve consequences too delicate and disagreeable to be hazarded. But at the same time that my judgment is against this, I am clearly of opinion, that we should attempt every thing that our circumstances will permit; but as the extent of our power must be regulated by many possible events, I would wish to hold ourselves free, to act according to either possibility, and as a clearer view of our resources shall authorize. If the enemy entirely leave these States, it will produce a vast change in our affairs and new prospects may open, of which we can at present have but a very imperfect idea. It would be a great step towards raising the value of our money, which would give a new spring to our military operations. We may be able to undertake much more than we can now foresee.
If the enemy attempt to keep posts in these States, a primary object will be to expel them, if in our power; if not, we must make proper provision to bar their depredations; and must turn our attention to the security of our frontiers, by pursuing such measures as shall be within the reach of our abilities.
Though we may not be able to launch into so wide a field as we could wish, some thing upon a more partial scale may be enterprised. Detroit and Niagara may perhaps be reduced, though Canada may not be an accession to the Confederacy. With a view to what is possible, preparations may be going on, and we can make such an application of them, as we shall find practicable. As there is no time to be lost in doing this, I shall give the necessary orders, so far as relate to the article of provision, which indeed has been already done in part. Magazines of forage, materials for boat and ship building, and other articles must also be provided; which will depend on the final arrangements, and more definitive instructions of Congress. These measures will be necessary to be taken, whether the present plan is carried on, or whether some thing less extensive, depending wholly on ourselves, is substituted in its place. I shall wait the further orders of Congress for the government of my conduct in delivering the plan to the Marquis, as their resolution seems to require; or in transmitting it immediately to Doctor Franklin, as the letter from the committee seems to direct. At present I am under some doubt concerning the intention of Congress in this particular. I have the honor, &c.1
TO HENRY LAURENS.
Fredg., 14th Novr., 1778.
This will be accompanied by an official letter on the subject of the proposed expedition against Canada. You will perceive I have only considered it in a military light; indeed I was not authorized to consider it in any other; and I am not without apprehensions, that I may be thought, in what I have done, to have exceeded the limits intended by Congress. But my solicitude for the public welfare, which I think deeply interested in this affair, will, I hope, justify me in the eyes of all those, who view things through that just medium. I do not know, Sir, what may be your sentiments in the present case; but, whatever they are, I am sure I can confide in your honor and friendship, and shall not hesitate to unbosom myself to you on a point of the most delicate and important nature.
The question of the Canadian expedition, in the form it now stands, appears to me one of the most interesting that has hitherto agitated our national deliberations. I have one objection to it, untouched in my public letter, which is, in my estimation, insurmountable, and alarms all my feelings for the true and permanent interests of my country. This is the introduction of a large body of French troops into Canada, and putting them in possession of the capital of that Province, attached to them by all the ties of blood, habits, manners, religion, and former connexion of government. I fear this would be too great a temptation to be resisted by any power actuated by the common maxims of national policy. Let us realize for a moment the striking advantages France would derive from the possession of Canada; the acquisition of an extensive territory, abounding in supplies for the use of her Islands; the opening a vast source of the most beneficial commerce with the Indian nations, which she might then monopolize; the having ports of her own on this continent independent of the precarious good will of an ally; the engrossing of the whole trade of Newfoundland whenever she pleased, the finest nursery of seamen in the world; the security afforded to her Islands; and, finally, the facility of awing and controlling these States, the natural and most formidable rival of every maritime power in Europe. Canada would be a solid acquisition to France on all these accounts, and because of the numerous inhabitants, subjects to her by inclination, who would aid in preserving it under her power against the attempt of every other.
France, acknowledged for some time past the most powerful monarchy in Europe by land, able now to dispute the empire of the sea with Britain, and if joined with Spain, I may say, certainly superior, possessed of New Orleans on our right, Canada on our left, and seconded by the numerous tribes of indians in our rear from one extremity to the other, a people so generally friendly to her, and whom she knows so well to conciliate, would, it is much to be apprehended, have it in her power to give law to these States.
Let us suppose, that, when the five thousand french troops (and under the idea of that number twice as many might be introduced) were entered the city of Quebec, they should declare an intention to hold Canada, as a pledge and surety for the debts due to France from the United States, or, under other specious pretences, hold the place till they can find a bone of contention, and, in the mean while, should excite the Canadians to engage in supporting their pretences & claims; what should we be able to say, with only four or five thousand men to carry on the dispute? It may be supposed, that France would not choose to renounce our friendship by a step of this kind, as the consequence would be a reunion with England on some terms or other, and the loss of what she had acquired in so violent and unjustifiable a manner, with all the advantages of an alliance with us. This, in my opinion, is too slender a security against the measure, to be relied on. The truth of the position will entirely depend on naval events. If France and Spain should unite, and obtain a decided superiority by Sea, a reunion with England would avail very little, and might be set at defiance. France, with a numerous army at command, might throw in what number of land forces she thought proper, to support her pretensions; and England, without men, without money, and inferior on her favorite element, could give no effectual aid to oppose them. Resentment, reproaches, and submission seem to be all that would be left to us. Men are very apt to run into extremes. Hatred to England may carry some into an excess of Confidence in France, especially when motives of gratitude are thrown into the scale. Men of this description would be unwilling to suppose France capable of acting so ungenerous a part. I am heartily disposed to entertain the most favorable sentiments of our new ally, and to cherish them in others to a reasonable degree. But it is maxim, founded on the universal experience of mankind, that no nation is to be trusted farther than it is bound by its interest; and no prudent statesman or politician will venture to depart from it. In our circumstances we ought to be particularly cautious; for we have not yet attained sufficient vigor and maturity to recover from the shock of any false step, into which we may unwarily fall.
If France should even engage in the scheme, in the first instance, with the purest intentions, there is the greatest danger that, in the progress of the business, invited to it by circumstances, and perhaps urged on by the solicitations and wishes of the Canadians, she would alter her views.
As the Marquis clothed his proposition, when he spoke it to me, it would seem to originate wholly with himself; but, it is far from impossible, that it had its birth in the Cabinet of France, and was put into this artful dress to give it the readier currency. I fancy that I read in the countenances of some people, on this occasion, more than the disinterested zeal of allies. I hope I am mistaken, and that my fears of mischief make me refine too much, and awaken jealousies that have no sufficient foundation. But upon the whole, Sir, to wave every other consideration, I do not like to add to the number of our national obligations. I would wish, as much as possible, to avoid giving a foreign power new claims of merit for services performed to the United States, and would ask no assistance that is not indispensable. I am, with the truest attachment and most perfect confidence, dear Sir, &c.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL SCHUYLER.
Fredericksburg, 20th Novr., 1778.
My Dear Sir,
Congress seem to have a strong desire to undertake an expedition against Canada. The practicability of it depends upon the employment the Enemy intend to give us on the Seaboard next Campaign, on their strength in Canada, the state of our resources, and other circumstances, some of which are too much buried in obscurity, others too much in the field of conjecture to form any decisive opinion of at this time. But there is not a moment to spare in preparing for such an event, if hereafter it should be found expedient to undertake it.
In your Letter of the 9th ulto., which you did me the favor of writing upon this subject, you are opposed to an Enterprise against Canada by the way of Co’os, and assign cogent reasons for not making it a principal dependence. You are also against the rout by Oswego; but, as an Expedition that way had not been suggested, you do not touch upon the reasons, but recomd. the common rout by the way of Lake Champlain, and a Winter Expedition, if the Ice will admit of it.
In general, Winter Campaigns are destructive to Troops, and nothing but pressing necessity, and the best state of preparation, can justify them. I fear neither the State of our Provisions, the condition of our men, nor the situation of our officers (whose distresses, on acct. of the uncommonly high prices of every necessary of life, are a source of general discontent and indifference to the Service), would warrant the undertaking, even if the state of the Lakes, and the force of Canada, should invite the measure. I am clear, also, that neither force nor stratagem can give us a well-founded hope of a decisive superiority in naval strength upon Lake Champlain, where the Enemy are at present so powerful.
Your scheme for preparing materials for building two large Ships upon this Lake is plausible, and, if only one or two were entrusted with the Secret, practicable. But when fifty men are to be consulted, before the measure can be adopted, when a number of these (inattentive to the importance of keeping military manœuvres secret), make matter of incautious if not common conversation of ye Plans in contemplation & a knowledge of them by that means gets into the hand of the Enemy’s emissaries, who are industrious in acquiring and diligent in communicating every piece of useful information; I say, when this is the case, I can entertain but little hope of success from a project of this kind. If, from these considerations, a Winter’s Expedition is found impracticable or unadvisable; if the conquest of the Enemy’s Fleet on Lake Champlain is not to be accomplished by force nor by stratagem; and if an Enterprise by the way of Co’os is inadmissible, as a primary object:—
1st. What door is left open for an Expedition against Canada?
2d. How far is there a moral certainty of extending the American arms into that country in the course of next campaign?
3d. And how far short of the entire conquest, and annexation of Canada to the Union, would give permanent peace and security to the Frontiers of these States?
In considering these points, and such others as may hereafter occur, it will be necessary to take the matter up in two points of view; presuming, in ye one case, that the enemy will evacuate the United States; in the other, that they mean to retain New York and Rhode Island as Garrison Towns. In discussing them with that freedom and candor, which I mean to do, you will readily perceive that it is my wish to enter into an unlimited and confidential correspondence with you on this subject. Where then, in addition, to the above queries;
4th. Lie the difficulties of an expedition against Canada by the way of Lake Ontario?
5th. Why did General Amherst take this rout, (when Lake Champlain was open, free, and so much more direct,) if he did not foresee that some apparent advantages were to be derived from it?
6th. What resources can be drawn from the State of New York towards the support of an Expedition of this kind?
7th. At what places would it be necessary to establish posts between Albany and Oswego, for the support of the communication, and security of Convoys? And
8th. How many men will be required at each Post for the above purposes, and at Oswego?
I mean to hazard my thoughts upon a Plan of operations for next Campaign, if the enemy should evacuate these States and leave us at liberty; but being unacquainted with the country, and many other matters essentially necessary to form a right judgment upon so extensive a project, I am sensible that it will be very defective, and shall consider it as the part of friendship in you, to observe upon every part of my plan with the utmost freedom.
I have already laid it down as a position, that, unless a Winters Expedition can be undertaken with success (opposed to which, in addition to the reasons already assigned, the want of Provisions I find is an almost insuperable bar), or the fleet at St. John’s can by some means or other be destroyed, the door into Canada by way of Lake Champlain is effectually closed. I am further of opinion, that the distance of Land Carriage by the way of Co’os for Flour and stores, &c., is too great to expect, that a sufficient body of Troops can be introduced through that rout, to answer singly any valuable purpose; and I am therefore naturally led to turn my thoughts to the Rout by the way of Oswego, though the same kind of difficulties, but not in so great a degree, present themselves here, as on the other Lake.
If I am not mistaken with respect to the Water carriage from Schenectady to Oswego, by the help of finesse and false appearances a pretty large stride may be taken towards obtaining a naval superiority on Lake Ontario, before the real design would be unfolded.
The plan I would adopt shd. be this. By innuendoes and oblique hints, I would endeavor to inculcate an idea that we were determined to acquire the mastery of lake Champlain; and, to give currency to this belief, I would have the Saw-mills about Fort Anne and Fort Edwd. set to work to prepare plank for Batteaux, and such kind of armed Vessels as may be proper for lake Ontario. I would go further, and, though it should be inconvenient and expensive, I would build the batteaux, and bring the Timber for larger Vessels to some place, or places, that might serve to confirm an Idea of this kind. A Plan of this sort, if well conceived and digested, and executed with secrecy, might, I think, deceive, so far as to draw the attention of the Enemy to Lake Champlain, at the expense of Ontario, especially as part of my plan is to advance a respectable body of Troops at a proper season to Co’os for purposes, which will be mentioned hereafter.
In the Spring, when every thing is ripe for execution, and the real design can no longer be concealed, I would advance with the utmost celerity (consistent with proper caution) to Oswego in the Batteaux, which have been provided (apparently) for Lake Champlain, transporting the armed Vessels in pieces to the same place. But here I am to ask, if this is practicable. My knowledge of the water communication from Schenectady to Oswego is not sufficiently accurate to form a decided opinion upon the possibility of this measure; and, if it is not to be effected, my plan in part fails, and we can only provide the materials under false colors, and depend upon outbuilding the enemy to obtain the superiority of the Lake. Whether the superiority can be obtained in this manner, I am not well able to determine, tho’ it is very necessary to be known, as it is the cornerstone of the superstructure. Much will depend upon the practicability of the Enemy’s getting Vessels, or materials for vessels, from lake Champlain or Montreal, to the navigation above la galette; because I proceed upon the principle, that, if we can deceive them effectually, their whole attention will be drawn to the more interior parts of the Country, and of course their ship-Carpenters, and materials for Shipbuilding, will be employed in that way.
The foregoing is a summary of my capital movement, to facilitate wch. I would, as has been before observed, advance a body of men from the Co’os. The motions of these should be regulated precisely by those of the main army, establishing Posts as they go, for the purposes of retreat, (in case of necessity,) and to protect convoys, if the main army should be able to penetrate Canada as far as Montreal. Several advantages will be derived from the advance of a body of Troops by the way of Co’os. First, strengthening ye belief, that we mean to enter by the way of St. John’s; secondly, it will serve to distract the Enemy in their councils and measures, and either divide their force & render them weak at all points, or, by keeping them collected, expose the interior or exterior part of the Country to a successful and fortunate blow from one or the other of these bodies; and will, in the third place, open a communication for ample supplies of live Cattle, if we should have occasion for them for Troops in Canada.
Under this plan, it is not only possible, but to be expected, that the Enemy, if they should come at the knowledge of our real designs, would oppose their whole naval force to our Troops on lake Ontario, and their Land force against those by the way of Co’os. In this case I should be glad of solutions to the questions which follow.
9th. Is there any practicable rout from Johnson’s Hall, or any other part of Mohawk River, or from the upper parts of Hudson’s River, to a River emptying itself into the St. Lawrence a little above la galette, by which we could avoid lake Ontario, and the armed Vessels on those waters, altogether? and if this is not to be effected, and a superiority on the lake is despaired of, then I should wish to be informed,
10th. Whether Niagara can be approached with an army and ye necessary apparatus, by a route, which will avoid this Lake?
11th. What will be the distance of the march from Fort Schuyler? the kind of country thro’ which it is to be made, and the difficulties which are to be expected?
12th. The advantages and disadvantages of maintaining that post, after possessing it, Canada remaining in the hands of ye Enemy?
For the more certain reduction of Niagara, and for the Peace and safety of the Frontiers of Pensylvania and Virginia, a part of my plan is, to advance a body of troops from Pittsburg by way of the Allegany, le bœuf (or French Creek,) and Prisquile to the above Post, if it be practicable; of which I am not certain, as the Enemy have armed Vessels on lake Erie, and I am ignorant of the kind of Country between Prisquile and Niagara, in case it is to be attempted by a land march. But admitting the impracticability of this, an Expedition to Detroit, which Congress meditated last Fall, and still have in contemplation, will keep the Indians in that Quarter employed, and prevent them from affording succor to the Garrison of Niagara. The preparations necessary to the one will answer for the other, while the one to Niagara may be concealed under the Idea of going to Detroit.
Although, under the present appearances of things, it is a matter of very great doubt whether we shall be in circumstances to prosecute a project of this kind, I have nevertheless given orders for magazines of Provisions to be laid in at Albany and on Connecticut River, from the lower Co’os to No. Four, and have ordered the Saw-Mills abt. Fort Anne to be set to work, and shall be obliged to you for your advice to Colo. Lewis on this occasion. If it should fall in your way to ascertain with precision the number and strength of the vessels upon Lake Ontario, and down to la galette, and the force of the Garrisons at Niagara and Oswegatchie, I shall thank you, and must beg leave to remind you of the mode you suggested to procure intelligence from Canada in the course of the Winter, as it is of infinite importance to be well informed of the strength, expectation, and preparation of the Enemy. To receive the acct. through different Channels is also essential, to avoid deception.
I shall be very happy to see you at the head-Quarters of the army, in your way to Philadelphia, whenever it happens. Governor Clinton wrote me that he should be at Albany in the course of a few days. As I have implicit confidence in him, it will be quite agreeable to me, that you should converse largely with him upon the sevl. matters herein contained, and then furnish me with your observations upon my plan, and the most effectual means of carrying it, or some other, into execution, with the necessary preparation to be made during the winter. With the greatest esteem and regard, I remain, dear Sir, &c.
P. S. Since writing this Letter I have seen a very intelligent Man who was many years a liver at and about Detroit.—He was sent prisoner in May last from that Post to Quebec—and from Quebec escaped the 7th of October.—He has given me a very accurate Acct. of the Enemy’s Naval force on the two Lakes (Erie and Ontario,) at the time he was in that Country, but I should still be glad to see how far other accts. corrispond with his and whether they have made any late progress in ship building since that period. He is particular also in his acct. of the strength of the Garrisons of Michilamakinack—Detroit—Niagara—and Oswegatchie as they stood in the spring, and adds that at the time he passed down the River, the Enemy were removing cannon from Oswegatchie to Buck Island which place he understood they meant to fortify.—When he left Canada Genl. Haldimand with more of the Troops were at the mouth of the Sorrel, very busy in fortifying that Post and strengthening themselves above on that River.—the received opinion in the Country being that an Expedition would be undertaken.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
I was yesterday honored with your favor of the 20th, with its several Inclosures.
Congress will be pleased to accept my acknowledgments for the communication of the treaties between His Most Christian Majesty and the United States. The resolve respecting the exchange of Prisoners has been transmitted to Sir Harry Clinton, and I have appointed commissioners,1 if he thinks proper, to meet his at Amboy the 7th of next month.
I have the pleasure to inform Congress, that the whole army, one brigade and the light corps excepted, is now in motion to the places of the respective cantonments for winter-quarters. I have thought it prudent to delay this event awhile, to give time for the convention troops to make some progress in crossing the North River, to prevent a possibility of accident. The third division passes this day; and, if no unexpected interruption happens, the whole will be over the 30th instant. When their passage is completed, the remaining troops kept in the field will immediately retire to quarters.
The disposition for winter-quarters is as follows. Nine brigades will be stationed on the west side of Hudson’s River, exclusive of the Garrison at West Point; one of which, the North Carolina brigade, will be near Smith’s Clove for the security of that pass, and as a reinforcement to West Point in case of necessity; another, the Jersey brigade, will be at Elizabethtown, to cover the lower part of Jersey; and the other seven, consisting of the Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania troops, will be at Middlebrook. Six brigades will be left on the east side of the river and at West Point; three of which (of the Massachusetts troops) will be stationed for the immediate defence of the Highlands; one at West Point, in addition to the Garrison already there; and the other two at Fishkill and the Continental Village. The remaining three brigades, composed of the New Hampshire and Connecticut troops and Hazen’s regiment, will be posted in the vicinity of Danbury, for the protection of the country lying along the Sound, to cover our magazines lying on Connecticut River, and to aid the Highlands on any serious movement of the enemy that way.
The park of artillery will be at Pluckemin. The cavalry will be disposed of thus; Bland’s regiment at Winchester in Virginia, Baylor’s at Frederic or Hagerstown in Maryland, Moylan’s at Lancaster in Pennsylvania, and Sheldon’s at Durham in Connecticut. Lee’s corps will be with that part of the army which is in the Jerseys, acting on the advanced posts. This comprehends the general distribution of the army, except Clinton’s brigade of New York troops, Pulaski’s corps, and some detached regiments and corps stationed at Albany and at different parts of the frontier, of which Congress have already been particularly advised. Genl. Putnam will command at Danbury, Genl. McDougall in the Highlands, and my own quarters will be in the Jerseys, in the neighborhood of Middlebrook.
This disposition appeared to me the best calculated to conciliate, as far as possible, these several objects: the protection of the country; the security of the important posts in the Highlands; the safety, discipline, and easy subsistence of the army. To have kept the Troops in a collected state would have increased infinitely the expense and difficulty of subsisting them, both with respect to forage and provisions; to have divided them into smaller cantonments would have made it far less practicable to maintain order and discipline among them, and would have put them less in a condition to control and prevent offensive operations on the side of the enemy, or to assemble to take advantage of any favorable opening, which their future situation may offer, should they be obliged to weaken themselves by further detachments, so far as to invite an enterprise against them.
By the estimate of the quartermaster and commissary general, it appears indispensable to have the principal part of the army on the other side of the North River. It was thought impracticable to furnish the necessary supplies of flour for the whole on this side of the river, from the immense difficulty and expense of transportation in the winter season, and from the exhausted state of the country with respect to forage. As this subject has been already fully before Congress, I shall not trouble them with a repetition of the details. In order as much as possible to reduce the demand of forage and facilitate the supplies, I have given directions, when the several divisions arrive at their cantonments, to send away to convenient places, at a distance from them, all the horses not absolutely requisite to carry on the ordinary business of the army.
It is unnecessary to add, that the Troops must again have recourse to the expedient of hutting, as they did last year. But, as they are now well clad, and we have had more leisure to make some little preparations for winter-quarters, I hope they will be in a more comfortable situation, than they were in the preceding winter. With the highest respect and esteem, I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO JOSEPH REED, PRESIDENT OF PENNSYLVANIA.
Middlebrook, 12 Dec., 1778.
Your favor of the 7th inst, by Mr. Laurens, came to my hands a day or two ago; previous to which I should have done myself the pleasure of congratulating you, (which I now do very sincerely,) on your late election to the government of Pennsylvania, had not Sir Harry’s late extra manœuvre up the North-River kept me upon the march and countermarch from the 5th till yesterday, when I arrived at these my quarters for the winter, and employed too much of my attention to investigate his designs, to indulge in more agreeable amusements.2
What did or could prompt the knight to this expedition, is beyond the reach of my conception, considering the unseasonableness of it. Three things only appeared to me probable: a rescue of the Convention troops, a stroke at the rear of our army, or a surprise of our posts in the Highlands. The two first I had seen perfectly out of his reach before I left the North River; and, not conceiving that he could miss it so much in point of intelligence, as to mistime matters so egregiously, (if either of the other two was his object,) it followed, of consequence, that the last must be his aim; and, though I had left them as I thought in a state of security, and in the hands of a good officer, McDougall, I could not help being uneasy, lest some disaster might befall them; and posted back from Elizabethtown on the morning of the 5th and got within twelve or fifteen miles of King’s Ferry, when I was met by an express, informing me that the enemy had landed at that place, set fire to two small log’d houses, destroyed nine barrels of spoiled herrings, and had set sail for New York. Thus ended this notable expedition, which was conducted (in the preparation) with so much secrecy, that all the flag-boats to and from the city were stopped, and not a mouse permitted to creep within their lines. The only bad consequence we have felt from it, (and, as the weather has turned out, not a trifling one,) is, that it has delayed the Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania troops four days in hutting, and has occasioned them to march through snow and bad roads to come at their ground, instead of having sunshine and good ones, which was the case before the storm on Thursday last.
It gives me very sincere pleasure to find, that there is likely to be a coalition of the Whigs in your State, (a few only excepted,) and that the Assembly of it are so well disposed to second your endeavors in bringing those murderers of our cause, the monopolizers, forestallers, and engrossers, to condign punishment. It is much to be lamented, that each State long ere this has not hunted them down as the pests of society, and the greatest enemies we have to the happiness of America. I would to God, that one of the most atrocious in each State was hung in gibbets upon a gallows five times as high as the one prepared by Haman. No punishment, in my opinion, is too great for the man, who can build his greatness upon his country’s ruin.1
General Lee’s publication in Dunlap’s Gazette of the 3d inst., (and I have seen no other,) puts me in a disagreeable situation.1 I have neither the leisure nor inclination to enter the lists with him in a newspaper; and so far as his production points to personality, I can and do from my inmost soul despise it; but, when he has most barefacedly misrepresented facts in some places, and thrown out insinuations in others, that have not the smallest foundation in truth, not to attempt a refutation is a tacit acknowledgment of the justice of his assertions; for, though there are thousands, who know how unsupported his piece is, there are yet tens of thousands that know nothing of the matter, and will be led naturally to conclude, that bold and confident assertions uncontradicted must be founded in truth.
It became a part of General Lee’s plan, from the moment of his arrest, though it was an event solicited by himself, to have the world believe that he was a persecuted man, and that party was at the bottom of it. But however convenient it may have been for his purpose to establish this doctrine, I defy him, or his most zealous partisans, to adduce a single instance in proof of it, unless bringing him to tryal at his own request, is considered in this light. I can do more; I will defy any person, out of my own family, to say that I have ever mentioned his name, after his tryal commenced if it was to be avoided; and, when it was not, if I have not studiously declined expressing any sentiment of him or his behavior. How far this conduct accords with his, let his own breast decide. If he conceives that I was opposed to him, because he found himself disposed to enter into a party against me; if he thought I stood in his road to preferment, and therefore that it was convenient to lessen me in the esteem of my countrymen, in order to pave the way for his own advancement, I have only to observe, that, as I never entertained any jealousy of or apprehension from him, so neither did I ever do more, than common civility and proper respect to his rank required, to conciliate his good opinion. His temper and plans were too versatile and violent to attract my admiration; and that I have escaped the venom of his tongue and pen so long, is more to be wondered at than applauded; as it is a favor, that no officer, under whose immediate command he ever served, has the happiness, (if happiness can be thus denominated,) of boasting.
Were I to give in to private conveniency and amusement, I should not be able to resist the invitation of my friends to make Philadelphia, instead of a squeezed-up room or two, my quarters for the winter. But the affairs of the army require a constant attention and presence, and, circumstanced as matters are at this juncture, call for some degree of care and address to keep it from crumbling. As peace and retirement are my ultimate aim, and the most pleasing and flattering wish of my soul, every thing advancive of this end contributes to my satisfaction, however difficult and inconvenient in the attainment; and will reconcile any place and all circumstances to my feelings, whilst I remain in service.
The officers of the army must be grateful for your endeavors to serve them; and those of your own State will, I trust, feel the salutary effects of your exertions in their favor. They really merit it; and resignation must cease to be wonderful, when it is a fact too notorious to be denied, that officers cannot live in the army, under present circumstances, whilst they see others enriching themselves by an infinity of ways. These are severe tests of public virtue, and should not in point of policy be pushed too far. With sincere regard and affection, and with compliments to Mrs. Reed, I am, dear Sir, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Head-Quarters,Middlebrook, 13th Dec., 1778.
It has not been in my power to return an answer to your favor of the 6th Instt. till now. The letter met me on the road, separated from my papers; and I did not reach this place till late on the 11th, since which I have been much employed in attending to the disposition for hutting the army; but, in the mean time, the objects of the despatch have engaged my utmost consideration.
The earnest desire I have to pay the strictest compliance in every instance with the views and instructions of Congress, cannot but make me feel the greatest uneasiness, when I find myself in circumstances of hesitation or doubt with respect to their directions. But the perfect confidence I have in the justice and candor of that honble. body emboldens me to communicate without reserve the difficulties, which occur in the execution of their present order; and the indulgence I have experienced on every former occasion induces me to imagine, that the liberty I now take will not meet with disapprobation.
I have attentively taken up the report of the committee of the 5th, (approv’d by Congress,) on the subject of my letter of the 11th ulto., on the proposed expedition into Canada. I have considered it in several lights, and sincerely regret, that I should feel myself under any embarrassment in carrying it into execution. Still I remain of opinion, from a general review of things and the state of our resources, that no extensive system of coöperation with the French, for the complete emancipation of Canada, can be positively decided on for the ensuing year. To propose a plan of perfect coöperation with a foreign power, without a moral certainty in our supplies, and to have that plan actually ratified by the court of Versailles, might be attended, in case of failure in the conditions on our part, with very fatal effects.
If I should seem unwilling to transmit the plan as prepared by Congress, with my observations, it is because I find myself under a necessity, (in order to give our minister sufficient ground to found an application on,) to propose something more than a vague and indecisive plan, which, even in the event of a total evacuation of these States by the enemy, may be rendered impracticable in the execution by a variety of insurmountable obstacles; or, if I retain my present sentiments and act consistently, I must point out the difficulties as they appear to me; which must embarrass his negotiations, and may disappoint the views of Congress.
But, proceeding on the idea of the enemy’s leaving these States before the active part of the ensuing campaign, I should fear to hazard a mistake as to the precise aim and extent of the views of Congress. The line of conduct, that I am to observe in writing to our minister at the court of France, does not appear sufficiently deliniated. Were I to undertake it, I should be much afraid of erring through misconception. In this dilemma I would esteem it a particular favor to be excused from writing at all on the subject, especially as it is ye part of candor in me to acknowledge, that I do not see my way clear enough to point out such a plan for coöperation, as I conceive to be consistent with the ideas of Congress, and that will be sufficiently explanatory, with respect to time and circumstances, to give efficacy to the measure. But if Congress still think it necessary for me to proceed in the business, I must request their more definitive & explicit instructions, and that they will permit me, previous to transmitting the intended despatches, to submit them to their determination.
I could wish to lay before Congress more minutely the state of the army, the condition of our Supplies, and the requisites necessary for carrying into execution an undertaking that may involve the most serious events. If Congress think this can be done more satisfactorily in a personal conference, I hope to have the army in such a situation before I can receive their answer, as to afford me an opportunity of giving my attendance. I would only add, that I shall cheerfully comply with the directions of Congress relative to making every preparation in our power for an Expedition against Niagara, and for such further operations to the northward, as time & circumstances shall enable us to carry on. Measures for the purpose have been taken in part for some time past; and I shall pursue them vigorously. The subject has long engaged my contemplation; and I am thoroughly convinced of the expediency & policy of doing every thing practicable on our part, for giving security to our Frontiers by the reduction of those places, which facilitate annoying them, and even for accomplishing the annexation of Canada to the Union.
I have the honor to be, &c.1
P. S. I have detained the letter to the Marquis till your further Instructions.1 The waters have been so high, as to prevent the Express from setting out yesterday with this despatch, as was intended.2
TO LUND WASHINGTON.
Your Letter of the 9th Instant came to my hands this day after I had despatched a long letter to you by Colo. Harrison—the quantity of land mentioned therein, as appears by my Plats, is I dare say, the exact number of acres held by Marshall; for more than which he ought not to expect payment—The three small quantities which serve to compose the aggregate 480½ are (I presume) those which lye on Muddy hole—the North side of the main road joining Wade’s & my line & on the South joining Manley & me.—This, as it is by actual & careful measurement, [&] intended for my own satisfaction & government, does I am perswaded, contain to the utmost inch all that he holds, and I chearfully acquiesce to it as just—But at all events fix the matter with him by a resurvey, or any other way to close the bargain, telling him, however, that if it is resurveyed & the surveyor makes it less than 480½ I shall pay for no more than is found by the last survey (if it should even fall short of 400 acres) and unless you have conditioned to the contrary, I shall expect, as the Survey will be made to gratifie him, that it will be done at his expence, & by the Surveyor of the County—or at least a sworn surveyor.—You will see that the chain is full 33 feet in length.
With respect to the small slipes which he engaged to let me have, the matter taken up in a strict sense, may be determined in a moment, by only solving a single question—to wit—did he or did he not, agree to take 40/ an acre for the land in ye event of not getting Alexr.? If he did not the matter is at an end, because there is not in that case room for even the shadow of argument. If he did where is the hardship of it?—or in other words, why is it a greater hardship to receive money (short of one’s wishes) for land sold, than for any other thing.—The money which General Weedon wants to pay you is due for lands I sold Doctor Mercer & for the very purpose of enabling me to pay for this and other Lands in that Neck as oppertunities might present; what difference then is there in the cases than in the Sum? and a case still more in point is—that the very money advanced Alexander was in fact for the payment of this land of Marshall’s. It is not harder than upon him to receive a part than upon me to receive the whole. Such local disadvantages as these are to be placed to the misfortunes of the times.—Some men indeed are benefited by them while others are ruined—I do not it is true come under the latter class (so far as extends to ruin) but I believe you know that by the comparitive worth of money, six or seven thousand pounds which I have in Bonds upon Interest is now reduced to as many hundreds because I can get no more for a thousand at this day than a hundred would have fetched when I left Virginia Bonds, debts, Rents &c undergoing no change while the currency is depreciating [low] in value and for ought I know may in a little time be totally sunk. I do not labor this point because I expect much from it, but simply to shew Mr. Marshall ye light in which he should consider the matter if he has a mind to act upon such principles as ought to actuate every honest man & to shew him moreover the falacy & error of his arguments when he endeavors to prove that I have deriv’d benefits from his Ld. which he has not experienced from Alexanders—the falacy of it—because if I have taken the timber off, it is not there consequently the land now is of much less value. The error of it—inasmuch as I am exceedingly mistaken if he has not inclosed and worked part of Alexander’s Land—which (now I am upon the subject) is a matter that you ought to enquire into, as I have some recollection of Alexanders telling me, that he had not only put Marshall in possession of the whole, or such part of the Land as he wanted but that the Rents wch. usually came to him ceased; intimating that the bargain between him, me, and Marshall was so far compleated as that he no longer recd. the Rents or all of them, nor was I to expect Interest for the money lent him.—If therefore I am to pay Marshall for his whole land, at the price now agreed to by the acre & to receive no Interest from Alexander, I shall be very prettily handled between the two.—
This circumstance is mentioned for your Government, at the same time I leave you at full liberty to close the Bargain with Marshall on any terms (if obliged to allow as much for the slips as other parts of his Land, & even to come up to 500 acres for the qty. as I neither wish to disappoint you nor myself in our present views—you will do the best you can to have justice done me—their impositions afterwards I must submit to as a tax to dishonorable men—
Among those plats which contained the quantity of Marshalls Land you will also find one which shews the contents of those Tracts I bought of the two Ashfords & Simon Pearson, which with so much of the waste land (taken up by me) as lyes above the tumbling Dam, shews (after taking of what Mr. Triplet is to get) the amount of what you are to have of me, and how far it will fall short of the purchase from Marshall, thereby enabling you to make a proper settlement. If you find more than one Plat of these lands (as I think there is), the last is the truest & most correct.—
It is not reasonable that Mr. Triplet should remain longer out of the land which he is to get in exchange for his by my mill race, as there is no prospect of my seeing home this Winter, and yet I am really at a loss to find out how it can be done without my being present, as no person knows the true & complex state of that matter as well as I do—nevertheless if he desires it, I will give you the best directions I can in order that possession may be given him this Winter—the way that I always expected & wished to have it done, was to extend a line from the bridge, at the head of the race by the Tumbling Dam, to the little branch which you cross in going on ward to Morris’s at the road leading thither—thence by a direct line to the main road, as (if my memory serves me) my fence runs; this, if the fence is removed in, as I think it was six or seven years ago, will give as many acres as I shall get between the race & the line of my New Patent.—but if it should not, then to pay for the difference at whatever the land would sell for at the time of ascertaining the several quantities we give and take even if it should be at £50 an acre.—If Mr. Triplet will agree to this, the matter, so far as respects the land & the use of it to both of us may be settled at any time; & a sum may also be deposited in his hands to be adjusted hereafter; which will prevent his suffering any delay or injustice on acct. of the money he is to receive.—or if this will not do, from his apprehension that he shall give more land than he will get (in which I think he will be mistaken, if I am not wrong in my ideas respecting the removal of my Fence which was done in this very view) I would, in order to satisfie him, & bring the matter as far as possible to a close & without further delay let the line from the branch at the road (leading from the Tumbling dam to the Plantation as mentioned before) bare a little more to the right to include a little more land—a Measure of this kind must remove every difficulty & will certainly give content—the legal fees of the County Surveyor in ascertaining this work, would amount to the value of both pieces of land; for not knowing, or not depending upon the circumstances, or with a view perhaps to increase his fees, he would survey Harrison’s Patent (on which Mr. Triplet lives) Pearsons (the Patentee of which I do not now recollect) my land taken up as waste—& part perhaps of that I bought of Geo. Ashford—all of which may be avoided by the mode I speak of, and the disadvantage resulting from the want of a final settlement thrown upon me, by giving him more land and more money, than he will be entitled to upon a fair and impartial measurement of the exchanged tracts. If you and Mr. Triplet should agree without any thing have a stone, or a locust Post fixed at the Road for the Corner.—
With respect to your bargain with Lanphire I can say nothing. I wish every contract that I make or that is made for me should be fulfilled according to the strict & equitable meaning of the Parties—& this in the present case, you must be a better judge of than I—If at the time of engaging him, the extra allowance of Corn &ca. more was expected & promised than has been performed, you are certainly under no obligation to comply with your part till he has fulfilled his—if on the other hand, he has fulfilled his you are bound to comply altho’ it may prove hard, but from your state of the case, the true and equitable construction of the bargain seems to me to be, that he ought to have the Corn and Wool, but should be obliged to continue his & servant’s labor at their present wages till the covered ways and such works as was particularized or had in contemplation at the time is finished—without this his wages will be monstrous, the end not answered & what neither of you at the time could possibly have in view.—I therefore think that this is the proper footing to place it on, &, tho’ slow, he had better be kept on those terms till you can at least bring his wages within the bounds of moderation by time if he should not quite compleat the work expected of him.—The Corn (which I am told Qr. Master Finie is now giving six pounds pr. barrl. for) should be delivered by little at a time, for if he gets the whole at once you may I suppose, catch him as you can.—
I come now to mention a matter which more particularly respects yourself—The depreciation of money, & the sudden rise in the price in ye course of this year & other things principally to this cause owing rendered your present wages especially under short Crops totally inadequate to your trouble & services.—I am therefore willing that you should receive a certain part of the last Crop—to be disposed of by you for your own benefit and so in future—this will give you the reward of your industry without subjecting you to the peculiar hardships resulting from depreciation as it is presumable that the price of produce will rise in proportion to the fall of the other.—I do not at this time ascertain what the part shall be, because I wish you to say what you think is just & right—this, it is my full wish to give & more I do not think you would ask therefore we cannot disagree.—
Being little acquainted with the produce of my Estate—amount of crops &ca. is the reason of my wishing to leave the matter to yourself as it is my first wish that you should be satisfied.—
Mr. Archer has got the letter you inclosed—& I have only to add that I am, &c.
TO BENJAMIN HARRISON, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF DELEGATES OF VIRGINIA.
My Dear Sir,
You will be so obliging as to present the enclosed to the House, when opportunity & a suitable occasion offer. I feel very sensibly the late honorable testitimony of their remembrance.1 To stand well in the good opinion of my countrymen constitutes my chiefest happiness, and will be my best support under the perplexities and difficulties of my present station.
The mention of my lands in the back country was more owing to accident than design—the Virga. Officers having sollicited leave for Colo. Wood to attend the Assembly of that Commonwealth with some representation of theirs respecting their claims, or wishes, brought my own matters (of a similar nature) to view; but I am too little acquainted with the minutiæ of them to ground an application on or give any trouble to the Assembly concerning them.—Under the proclamation of 1763, I am entitled to 5000 Acres of Land in my own right, & by purchase from Captn. Roots, Posey, & some other officers, I obtained rights to several thousand more—a small part of wch. I Patented during the Admn. of Lord Dunmore,—another part was (I believe) surveyed—whilst the major part remains in locations, but where (without having recourse to my Memms.) and under what circumstances, I know not at this time any more than you do, nor do I wish to give trouble abt. them.
I can assign but two causes for the enemy’s continuance among us; and these balance so equally in my mind, that I scarcely know which of the two preponderates. The one is, that they are waiting the ultimate determination of Parliament; the other, that of our distresses, by which I know the Commissioners went home not a little buoyed up, and, sorry I am to add, not without cause. What may be the effect of such large and frequent emissions, of the dissensions,—parties,—extravagance, and a general lax of public virtue, Heaven alone can tell! I am afraid even to think of It. But it appears as clear to me as ever the Sun did in its meridian brightness, that America never stood in more eminent need of the wise, patriotic, and spirited exertions of her Sons than at this period; and if it is not a sufficient cause for genl. lamentation, my misconception of the matter impresses it too strongly upon me, that the States, separately, are too much engaged in their local concerns, and have too many of their ablest men withdrawn from the general council, for the good of the common weal. In a word, I think our political system may be compared to the mechanism of a clock, and that our conduct should derive a lesson from it; for it answers no good purpose to keep the smaller wheels in order, if the greater one, which is the support and prime mover of the whole, is neglected.
How far the latter is the case, it does not become me to pronounce; but, as there can be no harm in a pious wish for the good of one’s Country, I shall offer it as mine, that each State wd. not only choose, but absolutely compel their ablest men to attend Congress; and that they would instruct them to go into a thorough investigation of the causes, that have produced so many disagreeable effects in the army and Country; in a word, that public abuses shoud be corrected & an entire reformation worked. Without these, it does not in my Judgment require the spirit of divination to foretell the consequences of the present administration; nor to how little purpose the States individually are framing constitutions, providing laws, and filling offices with the abilities of their ablest men. These, if the great whole is mismanaged, must sink in the general wreck, and will carry with it the remorse of thinking, that we are lost by our own folly and negligence, or the desire perhaps of living in ease and tranquillity during the expected accomplishment of so great a revolution, in the effecting of which the greatest abilities, and the honestest men our (i.e. the American) world affords, ought to be employed.1
It is much to be feared, my dear Sir, that the States, in their separate capacities, have very inadequate ideas of the present danger. Removed (some of them) far distant from the scene of action, and seeing and hearing such publications only, as flatter their wishes, they conceive that the contest is at an end, and that to regulate the government and police of their own State is all that remains to be done; but it is devoutly to be wished, that a sad reverse of this may not fall upon them like a thunder-clap, that is little expected. I do not mean to designate particular States. I wish to cast no reflections upon any one. The Public believe (and, if they do believe it, the fact might almost as well be so), that the States at this time are badly represented, and that the great and important concerns of the nation are horribly conducted, for want either of abilities or application in the members, or through the discord & party views of some individuals. That they should be so, is to be lamented more at this time than formerly, as we are far advanced in the dispute, and, in the opinn. of many, drawg. to a happy period; have the eyes of Europe upon us, and I am persuaded many political spies to watch, discover our situation and give information of our weaknesses and wants. The story you have related, of a proposal to redeem ye paper money at its present depreciated value, has also come to my ears; but I cannot vouch for the authenticity of it.
I am very happy to hear, that the Assembly of Virginia have put the completion of their regiments upon a footing so apparently certain; but, as one great defect of your past Laws for this purpose has lain in the mode of getting men to the army, I hope that effectual measures are pointed out in the present to remedy the evil, and bring forward all that shall be raised. The embargo upon provisions is a most salutary measure, as I am afraid a sufficiency of flour will not be obtained, even with money of higher estimation than ours. Adieu, my dear Sir. I am, &c.
P. S. Phila: 30th. This letter was to have gone by Post from Middlebrook but missed that conveyance, since which I have come to this place at the request of Congress whence I shall soon return.
I have seen nothing since I came here (on the 22d Inst.) to change my opinion of Men or Measrs., but abundant reason to be convinced that our affairs are in a more distressed, ruinous, and deplorable condition than they have been in since the commencement of the War.—By a faithfull aborer then in the cause—By a Man who is daily injuring his private Estate without even the smallest earthly advantage not common to all in case of a favorable Issue to the dispute—By one who wishes the prosperity of America most devoutly and sees or thinks he sees it, on the brink of ruin, you are beseeched most earnestly, my dear Colo. Harrison, to exert yourself in endeavoring to rescue your Country by (let me add) sending your ablest and best Men to Congress—these characters must not slumber nor sleep at home in such times of pressing danger—they must not content themselves in the enjoyment of places of honor or profit in their own Country while the common interests of America are mouldering and sinking into irretrievable (if a remedy is not soon applied) ruin in which theirs also must ultimately be involved. If I was to be called upon to draw a picture of the times and of Men, from what I have seen, and heard, and in part know, I should in one word say that idleness, dissipation & extravagance seems to have laid fast hold of most of them.—That speculation—peculation—and an insatiable thirst for rishes seems to have got the better of every other consideration and almost of every order of Men.—That party disputes and personal quarrels are the great business of the day whilst the momentous concerns of an empire—a great and accumulated debt—ruined finances—depreciated money—and want of credit (which in their consequences is the want of everything) are but secondary considerations and postponed from day to day—from week to week as if our affairs wear the most promising aspect—after drawing this picture, which from my Soul I believe to be a true one, I need not repeat to you that I am alarmed and wish to see my Countrymen roused.—I have no resentments, nor do I mean to point at any particular characters,—this I can declare upon my honor for I have every attention paid me by Congress that I can possibly expect and have reason to think that I stand well in their estimation, but in the present situation of things I cannot help asking—Where is Mason—Wythe—Jefferson—Nicholas—Pendleton—Nelson—and another I could name—and why, if you are sufficiently impressed with your danger do you not (as New Yk. has done in the case of Mr. Jay) send an extra member or two for at least a certain limited time till the great business of the Nation is put upon a more respectable and happy establishmt.—Your Money is now sinking 5 pr. ct. a day in this city; and I shall not be surprized if in the course of a few months a total stop is put to the currency of it.—And yet an Assembly—a concert—a Dinner—or supper (that will cost three or four hundred pounds) will not only take Men off from acting in but even from thinking of this business while a great part of the Officers of ye Army from absolute necessity are quitting the service and ye more virtuous few rather than do this are sinking by sure degrees into beggary and want.—I again repeat to you that this is not an exaggerated acct.; that it is an alarming one I do not deny, and confess to you that I feel more real distress on acct. of the prest. appearances of things than I have done at any one time since the commencement of the dispute—but it is time to bid you once more adieu.—Providence has heretofore taken me up when all other means and hope seemed to be departing from me in this. I will confide.—Yours—&c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL SCHUYLER.
Head-Quarters,Middlebrook, 18 December, 1778.
1. I beg you will accept my thanks for your obliging letter of the 30th ulto. and the polite expressions of your friendship which accompany it. At the same time I am happy to congratulate you on your honorable acquittal with the approbation of Congress.1 2. The information and remarks you have favored me with are very full and satisfactory, and I must request, as you are good enough to promise, that you will continue your reflections and inquiries on the subject, and communicate from time to time the result.
3. The difference of circumstances, which you have enumerated, between the time of General Amherst’s operations and the present, is certainly very striking, and the difficulties of an expedition into Canada by the route he took, as things are now situated, great and many. The more, however, I consider the subject, and examine into the state of our resources, the more I am convinced, that if an expedition is carried into that country, in the course of the next Campaign, it must of necessity be done through that channel. The advantages of penetrating by Lake Champlain make the practicability of doing it infinitely desirable; but, upon the whole, I still am of opinion, that the prospect of effecting it is too small and precarious to warrant the attempt. I could hardly rely upon the success of any expedient, that might be adopted to gain the superiority of the Lake in the Summer. And I have greater reason, than when I had the pleasure of writing you the 20th ulto., to believe that an undertaking for that purpose this winter is entirely out of our power. My earnest desire of a Winter expedition has led me closely to investigate our means of prosecuting it; and I find, after the fullest examination, from the concurrent and definitive reports of the Quarter Master and Commissary-General, that our resources are unequal to the preparations necessary for such an enterprise.
4. How far it will be in our power to extend our operations into Canada the next campaign, must depend on a variety of events, which cannot now be foreseen with certainty. It is to be lamented, too, that our prospects are not so favorable as we could wish. But I agree with you in the importance of reducing Niagara, at least, if practicable; and I think it prudent to be taking preparatory measures to enable us to attempt this, and as much more as the future situation of our affairs and resources may permit. I am the more induced to this, as the emancipation of Canada is an object that Congress have much at heart. 5. Conformably to this principle, I have directed the Commissary-General to lay in as large magazines of flour and salt provisions &c. at Albany and any other places, which may be thought proper, as he possibly can; and, in like manner, I have instructed the Quarter-Master-General to provide all the materials requisite for building vessels, together with forage and every other article, which comes under the direction of his department. A copy of my instructions to him is enclosed.
6. You will perceive I have referred the Quarter-Master-General to you for advice and directions in making his arrangements. I have done the same with respect to the Commissary. Every consideration induces me to wish and request your assistance in this business. No person, I know, has it more in his power to judge of the measures proper to be taken; and I am persuaded you will readily afford your aid in a matter of so great importance, as far as may be consistent with the situation of your public and personal concerns.
7. In forming the magazines, I wish regard to be had as far as the primary intention will permit to an easy transfer and appropriation of them, to the use of the army in this quarter, lest our operations to the Northward should be disappointed, and the scene of action still continue in our present front.—As a large supply of hard bread will be essential, you will, please among other things to direct the Commissary, to provide such a quantity of this article as you deem sufficient. The most speedy and complete repair possible of the arms in the hands of Mr. Renselaar will require immediate attention. 8. Though we cannot now determine what will be the extent of our northern plan, nor consequently what number of troops will really be employed, yet, as it is necessary to fix some precise idea on this point, by which to regulate our preparations, you will adapt them to an army of at least ten thousand effective rank and file, with a proportion of Artillery-men, attendants, and retainers of every kind, according to the nature of the expedition.
9. On account of the difficulty you suggest in transporting the vessels from the place mentioned in my last, my present intention is to have the iron work rigging Sails &c. prepared at Albany, and the vessels built at Oswego, agreeable to the plan you propose.—10. unless upon a more full considn. of ye matter you shall think the former plan of building on Hudsons River can be executed in the whole or part with more ease than at first view.
11. It would be of the greatest moment, however, to employ every artifice to cover the real design, and beget false expectations in the enemy. I leave this to your management.
12. You will observe by my instructions to the Qr. Mr. Gl., that I have not absolutely decided on the kind of vessels to be constructed. I wish first to take the opinions of some persons of experience in maritime affairs before I finally determine. With respect to the batteaux I leave the construction of them wholly to your judgment and you will give every direction accordingly.1
13. I shall be under a particular obligation for the journals you mention, if you are fortunate enough to find them.
14. Before I conclude There is one or two things, in particular, which I must beg you will endeavor to ascertain—Whether, there is not another River below la famine which empties into the St. Lawrence, and what kind of a River it is?—I have an idea of one which enters as low as Oswegatchie.—Also where the enemy’s vessels on Lake Ontario are stationed during the Winter, and how they are defended and secured in the frozen state of the Lake?
15. It is not unlikely I may be at Albany in the Month of January. This, in the mean time, I desire to be known only to you; but I must insist, that you will not suffer it to make the least alteration in your private plans. I am, with the truest esteem and regard, dear Sir, your obedient humble servant.
[1 ]Simeon Deane, brother to Silas Deane one of the American Commissioners in Paris, was the bearer of the despatches containing the treaties between France and the United States. He came over in the French frigate Sensible, of thirty-six guns, which was sent by the king for the express purpose, and arrived at Falmouth (now Portland) in Casco Bay, on the 13th of April, after a passage of thirty-five days. He reached Vorktown on Saturday, the 2d of May. Congress had adjourned till Monday, but the members were immediately summoned to assemble by the president, and the despatches were read.
[1 ]Read in Congress, May 4th.
[1 ]There were fears at this time, that the country, confiding in the aid and prowess of France, now pledged to sustain American independence, would remit the necessary exertions for carrying on the war. The favorable result of the contest was now considered as beyond a doubt. Even Washington said, in a letter to General Putnam, of the same date as the above: “I hope that the fair, and, I may say certain prospects of success will not induce us to relax.” Robert Morris also, in a letter to General Washington, thus wrote. “When I congratulate your Excellency on the great good news lately received from France, you will not expect me to express my feelings. Were I in your company, my countenance might show, but my pen cannot describe them. Most sincerely do I give you joy. Our independence is undoubtedly secured; our country must be free.”—May 9th.
[1 ]“The enclosed copy of a letter from General Dickinson to me will inform Congress of the fate of the Continental frigates in Delaware; a fate (in the situation in which they were left) I had long predicted, and which I had taken much pains to avert, by using every argument in my power to have them sunk. In that case, their destruction would have been at least a work of time, difficulty, and expense, and might have been perhaps prevented. About one o’clock on Thursday I got notice of an intended move of the enemy by water; and, conjecturing the destination of it, had a detachment under General Maxwell (whose tour of duty it was) ready to march towards the Delaware by four o’clock: but a heavy rain prevented their moving till next morning.”—Washington to the President of Congress, 12 May, 1778.
[1 ]A council of war was held on the 8th of May, at which were present the Major-Generals Gates, Greene, Stirling, Mifflin, Lafayette, Kalb, Armstrong, and Steuben; and the Brigadiers Knox and Duportail. This council was convened by order of Congress.
[1 ]See the Message and Address in the Annual Register for the Year 1778, pp. 290, 291.—Almon’s Remembrancer, vol. v., p. 119.
[1 ]General Woodford’s brigade consisted of Virginia troops, and was in the division commanded by the Marquis de Lafayette. The oath required by Congress to be taken by every officer was as follows: “I do acknowledge the United States of America to be free, independent, and sovereign States, and declare that the people thereof owe no allegiance or obedience to George the Third, King of Great Britain; and I renounce, refuse, and abjure any allegiance or obedience to him; and I do swear (or affirm) that I will, to the utmost of my power, support, maintain, and defend the said United States against the said King George the Third and his heirs and successors, and his or their abettors, assistants, and adherents, and will serve the said United States in the office, which I now hold, with fidelity, according to the best of my skill and understanding.”—Journals, February 3d. Twenty-six officers of General Woodford’s brigade signed and sent a memorial to the Marquis de Lafayette, stating their reasons against taking the oath in the words following:
[1 ]After long debates the question of half-pay was finally settled by a kind of compromise. It was decided, that all military officers, commissioned by Congress, who should continue in the service during the war, and not hold any office of profit in the States, should be entitled to receive annually after the conclusion of the war one half of their present pay, for the term of seven years, provided that no general officer of the artillery, cavalry, or infantry should receive more than the half-pay of a colonel, and that this gratuity should extend to no officer who should not take an oath of allegiance to the United States, and actually reside within the same. The non-commissioned officers, instead of half-pay, were entitled to receive a specific reward of eighty dollars at the end of the war. To the resolution in this form there were but two dissenting voices, Mr. Lovell of Massachusetts, and Mr. Wolcott of Connecticut.—Journals, May 15th. In the plan first reported by the committee to Congress, the half-pay was to continue for life, and to extend to the widows of officers who should be slain. It was also to be transferable under the control of Congress, and the officers were to be again called into service when necessary.
[1 ]General Mifflin had resigned his commissions of major-general and quarter-master-general, on the 8th of October. His resignation of the latter office was accepted by Congress, when he was appointed to the Board of War; but the rank and commission of major-general were continued to him, with the proviso, that no pay should be annexed to that office, till a further order of Congress. It seems his views were afterwards changed, and, on the 21st of May, Congress gave him leave to join the army under General Washington.
[2 ]Conway had sent a petulant letter to Congress, complaining of ill treatment, and asking an acceptance of his resignation; and then he was vexed and mortified that he should be taken at his word. After the Canada expedition had been abandoned, he was ordered to join the army under General McDougall at Fishkill. He was again ordered back to Albany, whereupon he wrote the above-mentioned letter to the President of Congress, from which the following is an extract characteristic of its author.
[1 ]Allen had been exchanged for Col. Campbell, and immediately went to headquarters. Washington wrote to Congress on the 12th:
[1 ]Read in Congress, May 20th. Referred to the committee lately in camp.
[1 ]“I do not yet find, that any troops have gone on board. They give out, that they mean to attack this army before they go off, but I rather think, if they move at all by land, it will be across Jersey. Under this uncertainty, I cannot alter my position, until they change theirs; I hold the army ready to move at the shortest notice towards the North River, should circumstances require it. In the mean time, I would have you make yourself as respectable as possible, by stopping all the recruits, and calling in as many militia as you can feed.”—Washington to Major-General Gates, 25 May, 1778.
[1 ]“We are going on with the regimental arrangements as fast as possible, and I think the Day begins to appear with Respect to this Business. Had our Saviour addressed a Chapter to the Rulers of Mankind, as he did many to the subjects, I am persuaded his good sense would have dictated this Text—Be not wise overmuch. Had the several members which compose our multifarious Body been only wise enough, our Business would long since have been compleated. But our superior Abilities, or the Desire of appearing to possess them, lead us to such exquisite tediousness of Debate, that the most precious moments pass unheeded away like vulgar Things.”—Gouverneur Morris to Washington, 21 May, 1778.
[1 ]“If you send any General to Rhode Island, you will probably find it most convenient to get rid of Varnum, whose temper and manners are by no means calculated to teach Patience, Discipline and Subordination.”—Gouverneur Morris to Washington, 23 May, 1778.
[2 ]“The Congress having been pleased to direct me to appoint an officer to command at Fort Pitt, and on the western frontiers, in the room of Brigadier-General Hand, I am induced, but not without reluctance, from the sense I entertain of your merit, to nominate you, as an officer well qualified from a variety of considerations to answer the objects they may have in view. I do not know particularly what the objects are, which Congress have in contemplation in this command; and I therefore request that you will, as soon as you conveniently can, repair to Yorktown and receive their instructions respecting them. I have only to add, that I shall be happy to hear from you as often as opportunity will permit, and my warmest wishes, that your services may be honorable to yourself and approved by your country.”—Washington to Brigadier-General McIntosh, 26 May, 1778.
[1 ]I am not sure of this word—it is abbreviated and not plainly written.—W. C. F.
[1 ]“I should be glad to know, in case Philadelphia is evacuated, whether any and what line of conduct is to be pursued respecting the goods that may be left. Such articles, as come under the denomination of public stores, will of course be taken by the proper officers for the use of the States. The point on which I wish direction is, with respect to goods and merchandise, private property. I do not know whether any considerable quantity may be left; but it has been suggested, that, from an expectation of the sort, there are some bringing into light their gold and silver for the purpose of buying up. If there should be clothing suitable for the army, perhaps there might be nothing unjust in the public’s taking the preference, and Congress appointing one or two intelligent, active persons of address, acquainted with the city and with those who have the goods, with proper powers to purchase them.
[2 ]Miss Annie Cary Morris, of Morrisania, very courteously gave me a copy of this letter.
[1 ]The history of the doings of the American commissioners in Paris, and of their disagreements, may be found in the first volume of the Diplomatic Correspondence of the American Revolution.
[2 ]The British commissioners expected from England.
[1 ]President Laurens was strongly opposed to the scheme of half-pay for life.
[1 ]Conway, Gates, and Mifflin.
[1 ]“If the States will not or cannot send their quota of troops into the field, it is no fault of mine. I have been urgent in my requisitions on that head; and whatever consequences may arise from the deficiency, will not, I trust, be chargeable on me. I cannot detach the reinforcement you request. The enemy are yet in possession of Philadelphia in full force, and we have near four thousand men in this camp sick of the smallpox and other disorders. I have sent the whole of the Jersey troops to that State, to harass them in their march, in case they proceed to New York by land; and General Maxwell, who commands them, is ordered, as soon as they shall have passed through, or the moment he is informed that they are embarked, to repair with all possible expedition to Newburg, and take your directions. The whole of the army, besides, is under marching orders, and, as soon as Philadelphia is evacuated, will move as fast as circumstances will admit towards the North River. I have written to Colonel Sheldon, and directed him to proceed immediately with the regiment to Fishkill.”—Washington to Major-General Gates, 29 May, 1778.
[1 ]Sir Henry Clinton took command of the British army in Philadelphia on the 11th of May, in the place of Sir William Howe, who shortly afterwards returned to England. Sir Henry Clinton wished to send to Washington a number of the conciliatory bills, and asked for a time when Col. Paterson could deliver them.
[1 ]From a MS. in Washington’s writing, without date.
[1 ]The enemy had resolved to evacuate Philadelphia as early as the 23d of May, and perhaps before. On that day General Clinton wrote to Lord George Germaine, that he had determined to leave Philadelphia and proceed to New York with the whole army, as soon as it could be done. The first intention was to go by water, but twelve days after the date of the letter mentioned above he wrote again as follows: “I found it impracticable to embark the forces in order to proceed to New York by water, as there are not transports enough to receive the whole at once, and therefore a great part of the cavalry, all our provision train, and the persons whose attachment to the government has rendered them objects of vengeance to the enemy, must have been left behind. I am to add to this, that, if we should afterwards have been detained by contrary winds, General Washington might have seized the opportunity of making a decisive push at New York, all accounts from thence seeming to indicate an intent of that sort. These reasons have induced me to resolve on marching through Jersey.”—MS. Letters, May 23d, June 5th.
[1 ]I assure you, Sir, I would willingly give you every justifiable aid from this army. At present, the situation of affairs will not permit my doing more than what I have already. The enemy are yet in Philadelphia with a respectable force, and our’s but very little, if any, increased, since you left us, from what reason, I shall not pretend to determine. But certainly there is an unaccountable kind of lethargy in most of the States in making up their quotas of men. It would almost seem from their withholding their supplies or not sending them into the field, that they consider the war as quite at an end.”—Washington to Brigadier-General McIntosh, 10 June, 1778.
[1 ]The above letter was accompanied with the despatches from the commissioners, and many private letters from England to members of Congress and others. In his reply, President Laurens wrote:—“Yesterday there was an extraordinary motion on our floor for calling upon members to lay before Congress such letters as they had received from the commissioners and other persons, meaning persons of Great Britain, on political subjects. I could not forbear offering some objections; it appeared to be a dangerous attempt to stretch the power of Congress. My letters had been read by many members, and were at the service of every gentleman, who should request a perusal, but I could never consent to have my property taken from me by an order from my fellow-citizens destitute of authority for the purpose. This circumstance, and some remarks which followed, have induced me to put Governor Johnstone’s letter and my intended answer into Mr. Drayton’s hands, who is collecting materials for displaying the governor’s good designs.”—June 18th.
[1 ]General Gates had expressed an opinion, that during the ensuing campaign the enemy would operate up the North River and against the eastern States.
[2 ]The king’s ship of war, Trident, of sixty-four guns having on board the commissioners for carrying into effect Lord North’s bills, arrived in the Delaware River on the 4th of June.
[1 ]“I am sorry an exchange cannot take place between Genl. Thompson and one of the gentlemen who were supposed to be brigadiers. This method of considering officers as Brigadiers and not considering them as such, does not altogether accord with my ideas of propriety. In the course of the contest we lost one officer that is the difference in rank between a Major and Brigadier, by this mode of conduct. We must take care how we lose another.”—Washington to Major-General Heath, 17 June, 1778.
[1 ]So adroitly had the British made their preparations for a removal from Philadelphia, that it was even at this late hour doubtful what course they intended to pursue. From many concurring circumstances, which he watched narowly, General Washington was at length convinced, that they intended to march through Jersey. But the views of others were quite different; and only three days before the enemy actually crossed the river, and took up their line of march, General Lee wrote to the Commander-in-chief as follows:
[1 ]General Reed was probably at this time in camp, as one of the committee from Congress for arranging the army.
[1 ]A council of war was held on the 17th of June, in which the following questions were proposed by the Commander-in-chief, and discussed:
[2 ]Read in Congress, June 20th. Referred to the Committee of Intelligence.
[1 ]Henry Jackson, of the Massachusetts line.
[2 ]The object of this resolve was to protect the inhabitants of Philadelphia from suffering any insult or injury to their property or persons after the evacuation. It was required, that no transfers, removals, or sales of goods or merchandise in the possession of the inhabitants should be allowed, till it should be ascertained by a joint committee, appointed by Congress and the government of Pennsylvania, whether any of them belonged to the king of Great Britain or his subjects.
[3 ]“You are immediately to proceed to Philadelphia and take the command of the troops there. The principal objects of your command you will find specified in the enclosed resolve of Congress of the 4th instant, which you will carefully execute. You will take every prudent step in your power to preserve tranquillity and order in the city, and give security to individuals of every class and description, restraining as far as possible, till the restoration of civil government, every species of persecution, insult, or abuse, either from the soldiery to the inhabitants, or among each other. I leave it to your own discretion to adopt such measures as shall appear to you the most effectual, and at the same time least offensive, for answering the views of Congress, to prevent the removal, transfer, or sale of any goods, wares, or merchandise, in possession of the inhabitants of the city, till the property of them can be ascertained in the mode directed.
[1 ]Read in Congress, June 20th.
[2 ]Washington arrived at Coryell’s Ferry at noon on the 21st. He crossed the river at about 3 o’clock. “Rain prevented our marching so early this morning as I intended [4 o’clock]; the succeeding heat and badness of roads rendered it impossible for the army to advance any further than the other side of Coryell’s Ferry.”—Washington to Major-General Dickinson, 21 June, 1778.
[3 ]“You are to proceed with the first and second Pennsylvania regiments, and the brigade late Conway’s, by the direct route to Coryell’s Ferry, leaving a proper interval between your division and General Lee’s, so as to prevent their interfering with each other. The instructions given to General Lee, are to halt on the first strong ground after passing the Delaware at the said ferry, until further orders; unless he should receive authentic intelligence, that the enemy have proceeded by the direct road to South Amboy, (or still lower); in this case he is to continue his march to the North River.”—Washington to Brigadier-General Wayne, 18 June, 1778.
[1 ]A warrior taken prisoner on the frontiers of Virginia.
[1 ]“When we came to Hopewell Township, the General unluckily called a council of war, the result of which would have done honor to the most honorable society of midwives, and to them only. The purport was, that we should keep at a comfortable distance from the enemy, and keep up a vain parade of annoying them by detachment. In pursuance of this idea, a detachment of 1500 men was sent off under General Scott to join the other troops near the enemy’s lines. General Lee was primum mobile of this sage plan; and was even opposed to sending so considerable a force. The General, on mature reconsideration of what had been resolved on, determined to pursue a different line of conduct at all hazards.”—Hamilton to Boudinot, 5 July, 1778.
[1 ]On the morning of the 23d, Washington marched to “Hopewell Township, near the Baptist Meeting,” where he located his headquarters. He had expected to be nearer Princeton, but the enemy moved more slowly than he had expected, and he was uncertain of their intentions. He called upon Major-General Dickinson for guides, and described the detachments harassing the enemy as follows: “Morgan’s corps is to gain the enemy’s right flank; Maxwell’s brigade to hang on their left; Brigadier General Scott is now marching with a very respectable detachment destined to gall the enemy’s left flank and rear,” while Cadwalader, with some Continental troops and volunteers, had crossed the Delaware and was marching to the enemy’s rear.—To Dickinson, 24 June, 1778.
[2 ]Washington arrived at Cranberry, with the head of the line, shortly after 9 o’clock, a.m.
[1 ]Lee had in something of a pet, refused the command of the detachment sent against the left flank and rear of the enemy, deeming it “as a more proper business of a young, volunteering general, than of the second in command in the army.” So Lafayette was given the appointment, and had proceeded to carry out the instructions of the Commander-in-chief, when Lee, urged by his friends and hearing that Lord Sterling was advancing his pretensions to command, suddenly altered his mind, and asked for the command.—Lee to Washington, 25 June, 1778. Upon learning of the dilemma in which this act of Lee placed Washington, the Marquis gracefully yielded: “I want to repeat to you in writing, what I have told to you, which is, that, if you believe it, or if it is believed necessary or useful to the good of the service and the honor of General Lee to send him down with a couple of thousand men, or any greater force; I will cheerfully obey and serve him, not only out of duty, but out of what I owe to that gentleman’s character.”—Lafayette to Washington, 26 June, 1778.
[1 ]The draft reads “Englishtown, six miles from Monmouth Court House.”
[1 ]When Sir Henry Clinton left Philadelphia, it was his purpose, if circumstances would admit, to march directly to Brunswick and embark his troops on the Raritan River. Till he arrived at Crosswicks and Allentown, his march was in that direction, although equally in a line to Sandy Hook. At this point it was necessary for him to determine which route to pursue, and he chose the latter, as he was informed that General Washington had crossed the Delaware with his whole army, and was stationed on the line to Brunswick.
[2 ]A letter to General Dickinson was dated, “Headquarters, Fairfield Township, near Monmouth Court House, 29 June, 1778, 6 o’clock p.m.
[1 ]“I have seen the General much embarrassed this day, on the subject of those who distinguished themselves in the battle of Monmouth. To name a few, and be silent with regard to many of equal merit would be an injustice to the latter; to pass the whole over unnoticed would be an unpardonable slight; indiscriminate praise of the whole would be an unfair distribution of rewards; and yet, when men generally conducted themselves so well as our officers did, this matter is allowable and is eligible, because least liable to give offence. The merit of restoring the day, is due to the General; and his conduct was such throughout the affair as has greatly increased my love and esteem for him.”—Col. John Laurens to Henry Laurens, 2 July, 1778. “I never saw the General to so much advantage. He instantly took measures for checking the enemy’s advance, and giving time to the army, which was very near, to form and make a proper disposition. He then rode back and had the troops formed on a very advantageous piece of ground . . . America owes a great deal to General Washington for this day’s work. A general rout, dismay and disgrace would have attended the whole army in any other hands but his. By his own good sense and fortitude, he turned the fate of the day. Other officers have great merit in performing their parts well; but he directed the whole with the skill of a master workman. He did not hug himself at a distance, and leave an Arnold to win laurels for him; but by his own presence he brought order out of confusion, animated his troops, and led them to success.”—Hamilton to Boudinot, 5 July, 1778. “The general I always revered and loved ever since I knew him, but in this instance he rose superior to himself. Every lip dwells on his praise, for even his pretended friends (for none dare to acknowledge themselves his enemies) are obliged to croak it forth.”—Boudinot to Hamilton, 8 July, 1778.
[1 ]Rudolph Bunner.
[2 ]Major Edmund B. Dickinson, who “ought much to be regretted by his friends and countrymen. He possessed every qualification to render him eminent in the military line. Capt. Fauntleroy of the 5th, was unfortunately killed by a random cannon ball.”—Washington to Governor Henry, 4 July, 1778.
[1 ]By an official return from General Arnold, dated the 4th of July, the number of deserters, who had then arrived in Philadelphia during the march of the enemy through Jersey, was five hundred and seventy-six. Of these one hundred and thirty-six were British, and four hundred and forty German troops. On the 8th of July the number was increased to above six hundred.
[1 ]Lord Stirling was president of the court-martial for the trial of General Lee. The court met at Brunswick on the 4th of July, and continued sitting nearly every day till the 12th of August, when it was closed. It moved with the army, and convened successively at Brunswick, Paramus, Peekskill, and Northcastle.
[1 ]Read in Congress, July 9th.
[2 ]“The left wing of the army is advanced four miles from this place, and nineteen miles from King’s Ferry: the other two divisions are moving after it, with proper intervals. The enemy, since quitting the Jerseys, have encamped in three divisions on Staten Island, New York Island and Long Island. It does not appear to be their design, or even practicable for them immediately, to commence any offensive operations. This consideration, added to the intense heat of the weather, determines me to move very leisurely, and spare the troops as much as possible.”—Washington to Major-General Arnold, 11 July, 1778.
[1 ]“Resolved, unanimously, that the thanks of Congress be given to General Washington for the activity with which he marched from the camp at Valley Forge in pursuit of the enemy; for his distinguished exertions in forming the line of battle; and for his great good conduct in leading on the attack and gaining the important victory of Monmouth over the British grand army, under the command of General Sir Henry Clinton, in their march from Philadelphia to New York.”—Journals, July 7th.
[1 ]Read in Congress, July 15th.
[1 ]Besides the spies in New York, there were persons stationed in Monmouth County near the Hook, who watched the British shipping, and communicated intelligence to General Washington.
[1 ]“The right wing and second line of the army marched this morning from hence [Paramus], and will be at Haverstraw tomorrow, where I also expect to be at the same time.”—Washington to Major-General Gates, 14 July, 1778.
[2 ]“Interest and policy strongly press us to co-operate with & to give every countenance to our friends upon this occasion, and this is the wish of Congress. I therefore think it will be material for you to circulate a report in a proper way, that we are on the point of concentring our whole force, and bringing it to act against New York. This will excite the enemy’s fears, and aided by such movements and other measures as you may judge advisable to take, may greatly facilitate the Admiral’s designs and produce the most beneficial consequences. We should attempt to rouse their jealousy in every quarter and in every shape.”—Washington to Major-General Gates, 14 July, 1778.
[1 ]In his first letter, on approaching the coast, Count d’Estaing wrote as follows:
[1 ]Major Chouin had been sent to Congress with despatches by Count d’Estaing. From Congress he hastened immediately to General Washington’s camp, as the bearer of the first letter. “I pray you,” said Count d’Estaing in the same letter, “to place the most extensive confidence in all this officer shall tell you on my part. He is a near relation of M. de Sartine. This minister has been long known for his attachment to the common cause. It is less the desire of pleasing a statesman, honored with the confidence of the King, which has determined me to send to you M. de Chouin, than an opinion of his military knowledge, the clearness of his ideas, and the precision with which he will communicate mine.”
[1 ]In speaking of the expected arrival of the Cork fleet, Washington wrote to Governor Greene on the 18th: “It is probable that this fleet as well as other vessels, to avoid the Count d’Estaing’s, will be directed to take its course through the Sound. If this should be the case, it might answer the most valuable intentions, were the eastern States to collect immediately all their frigates and privateers to rendezvous at some convenient place for interrupting their passage that way. Could the whole or any considerable part of this fleet be taken or destroyed, it would be a fatal blow to the British army, which it is supposed at this time has but a small stock of provisions on hand. I would, therefore, beg leave to recommend and urge the matter to your particular consideration, as a thing of the utmost importance to our course at this critical conjuncture, from the proper execution of which we might derive the most solid advantages.”
[1 ]Colonel Henry Jackson.
[1 ]“I am in a great measure a total stranger to the expedition against Detroit, and entirely so to that against the Senecas. Agreeable to the direction of Congress, I sent General McIntosh and two regiments to Fort Pitt, but whether an expedition is immediately intended against Detroit, or whether these troops are to remain a defence for the western frontier, I do not know. The parties of Indians and others, under Butler and Brandt, have already done considerable mischief in the north east corner of Pennsylvania, having cut off the inhabitants and intirely destroyed the settlement of Wyoming.”—Washington to General Schuyler, 22 July, 1778.
[1 ]Count d’Estaing, in his letter to Congress explaining his operations on the coast, complains of being deceived by the pilot he took from the Delaware River, who assured him, that the squadron could pass around the Hook. “Circumstances required,” said he, “that I should reconnoitre the coast myself, and determined me to go almost alone in a boat. By these means we discovered the communication of Shrewsbury River, the extreme difficulties of which cost me an officer, several sailors, and a quantity of rowing-boats. They exposed Colonel Laurens to the most imminent danger of being drowned in bringing me General Washington’s despatches, and put him in a situation to prove, that his patriotism and his courage made him brave the most imposing dangers of the sea with the same firmness as the fire of the enemy. Both officers and crews were kept in spirits, notwithstanding their wants and the fatigues of service, by the desire of delivering America from the English colors, which we saw waving, on the other side of a simple barrier of sand, upon so great a crowd of masts. The pilots procured by Colonels Laurens and Hamilton destroyed all illusion. These experienced persons unanimously declared, that it was impossible to carry us in. I offered in vain a reward of fifty thousand crowns to any one, who would promise success. All refused, and the particular soundings, which I caused to be taken myself, too well demonstrated, that they were right.”—Letter, August 26th.
[1 ]“Colo. Laurens will suggest to his Excellency Count de Estaing the advantages that would more than probably result from a French ship of (sufficient) force getting into the sound, as far up as Lyons Tongue, or somewhere thereabouts. A measure of this kind would clear that channel of the British armed Vessels which now infest it, and cover the passage—and landing of a party of men wch. might be sent to long Island for the purposes of removing the cattle out of the way of the Enemy, destroying their Horses, &ca., and would afford supplies of fresh provisions to the Fleet, vegetables, and other comforts.
[1 ]President Laurens had written, respecting the commissioners’ second letter to Congress: “If I dared to venture an opinion from a very cursory reading of the performance, it would be, that this is more puerile than any thing I have seen from the other side since the commencement of our present dispute, with a little dash of insolence, as unnecessary as it will be unavailing.” The puerile part of the letter is that in which the commissioners attempt to evade the positive requisition of Congress, as a preliminary of a negotiation, namely, an acknowledgment of independence, or a withdrawal of the King’s fleets and armies. They consent neither to the one nor the other, and yet contend that Congress may proceed to negotiate according to their own principles. The indecorous and offensive part is that, wherein the commissioners demand by what authority the Congress assume the prerogative of making treaties with foreign nations, and claim a right to be informed of the particulars contained in the treaty with France, intimating that the same ought also to be known to the people, that they might judge whether such an alliance ought to be a reason for continuing the war. Congress voted, that no answer should be returned to the letter, and ordered it to be published.—Journals, July 18th. See the letter of the commissioners in the Remembrancer, vol. vii., p. 11.
[2 ]Chevalier de Laneuville, and his brother Noirmont Laneuville.
[1 ]Steuben’s position is described in Hamilton to Boudinot, 26 July, 1778.
[1 ]Read August 1st. This letter was referred to a committee, who brought in a report, which Congress voted should be sent to General Washington for his opinion. In the meantime Congress requested Baron Steuben to repair to Rhode Island, and give his advice and assistance to General Sullivan, and the army under his command. With this request he complied.—Journals, August 28th, 29th.
[1 ]By this arrangement the command originally intended for the Marquis de Lafayette was divided, and the manner in which the intelligence was received by him was so honorable to his feelings, and to the principles upon which he acted, that his reply deserves to be recorded. “I have received your Excellency’s favor by General Greene,” he writes, “and have been much pleased with the arrival of the gentleman, who, not only on account of his merit and the justness of his views, but by his knowledge of the country and his popularity in this State, may be very serviceable to the expedition. I willingly part with half my detachment, since you find it for the good of the service, though I had great dependence on them. Any thing, my dear General, which you shall order or can wish, will always be infinitely agreeable to me; and I shall always be happy in doing any thing that may please you or forward the public good. I am of the same opinion as your Excellency, that dividing our Continental troops among the militia will have a better effect, than if we were to keep them together in one wing.”—MS Letter, Providence, August 6th.
[1 ]As soon as it was decided, that the French fleet could not pass round the Hook, and it was resolved to make a combined attack on the British in Newport, Colonel Laurens was sent to Rhode Island to engage pilots and make arrangements for meeting Count d’Estaing on his arrival. He reached Providence on the 24th of July, and the next day proceeded to Point Judith, with an ample number of pilots under the command of Colonel Wall. Eight boats were obtained, suitable for boarding the ships, and well manned. A careful watch was kept along the shore, and every thing conducted with as much secrecy as possible, that the enemy might not discover them. The fleet appeared on the 29th, when the pilots went on board. General Sullivan came from Providence, where he was then stationed, boarded the Admiral’s ship, and had an interview with him, in which the plan of future operations was arranged. The Marquis de Lafayette likewise paid a visit to the Count d’Estaing on the 30th, having reached Providence the day before.—Sparks.
[2 ]Although General Sullivan had every thing in readiness at Providence, as far as it depended on him, yet the troops did not arrive so soon as Count d’Estaing, and it was a week before they were prepared to coöperate in making a descent upon Rhode Island. This delay, which was unavoidable, may be considered the principal cause of defeat of the enterprise; for, if it had been undertaken immediately, it might have been effected before the British fleet arrived.
[1 ]It would seem, that there was in some quarter a design of offering the command of the American navy to General Arnold, and that he was not disinclined to accept the proposal. “My wounds,” said he, “are in a fair way, and less painful than usual, though there is little prospect of my being able to take the field for a considerable time; which considerations, together with that of having been obliged entirely to neglect my private affairs since I have been in the service, has induced me to wish to retire from public business, unless an offer, which my friends have mentioned, should be made to me of the command of the navy; to which my being wounded would not be so great an objection, as it would by remaining in the army. I must beg leave to request your Excellency’s sentiments respecting a command in the navy. I am sensible of my inability, and of the great hazard and fatigue attending the office, and that I should enjoy much greater happiness in a private life; still my wishes to serve my country have a greater weight with me, than domestic happiness or ease.”—M.S. Letter, July 19th. Arnold’s ruling passion, and the cause of his ruin, was his love of money; which he coveted, not so much from a desire of accumulation, as to obtain the means of display and luxury. He no doubt thought, that the command of the navy would afford him better opportunities for the attainment of this great end of his wishes, than the land service. How far this motive operated, and whether he did not himself originate the idea of his being transferred to the navy, and communicate it to his friends, the reader must judge from the tenor of the above remarks, and the subsequent developments of his character.—Sparks.
[1 ]Intelligence of Lord Howe’s sailing from the Hook with his fleet.
[1 ]“Rough draft of part of the letter.”—Washington’s endorsement.
[1 ]Read in Congress, August 19th.
[1 ]It would seem, that Governor Johnstone, presuming on his former friendships, had taken very unwarrantable liberties in writing to some of the members of Congress, particularly to Robert Morris, Joseph Reed, and Francis Dana. It being rumored, that letters of an improper tendency had been sent to some of the members, an order was passed, that all letters received by any of the members from the Britinh commissioners, or any subject of the King of Great Britain, should be laid before Congress.—Journals, July 9th, Letters from Governor Johnstone to the above members were found objectionable, and deemed worthy of special notice. A message from him to Joseph Reed by Mrs. Ferguson, a lady of character, was also considered a direct attempt to bribe him with the proffer of a large sum of money and a high office in his Majesty’s gift. Mr. Reed replied, “that he was not worth purchasing, but such as he was, the King of Great Britain was not rich enough to do it.” These particulars were regarded in so unfavorable a light by Congress, that they issued a declaration, containing extracts from the letters and other facts, and accompanied by the resolves: “That the contents of the said paragraphs, and the particulars in the said declaration, in the opinion of Congress, cannot but be considered as direct attempts to corrupt and bribe the Congress of the United States of America; that, as Congress feel, so they ought to demonstrate, the highest and most pointed indignation against such daring and atrocious attempts to corrupt their integrity; that it is incompatible with the honor of Congress to hold any manner of correspondence or intercourse with the said George Johnstone, especially to negotiate with him upon affairs in which the cause of liberty is interested.”—See the proceedings in the Journals of Congress, August 11th. The letters are contained in the Remembrancer, vol. vii., p. 8, et seq. Governor Johnstone published a counter declaration vindicating himself, and retired from the commission. In the Stevens Fac-similes is a draught of a declaration by the commissioners concerning this conduct of Governor Johnstone.
[1 ]Congress had passed a resolve on the 2d of March, recommending to the young men of property and spirit in several of the States to form themselves into volunteer troops of light cavalry, to serve at their own expense, except in the articles of provisions and forage, and to join the main army. General Nelson had accordingly come forward with a troop of this description from Virginia to Philadelphia. Congress thanked them for their “brave, generous, and patriotic efforts in the cause of their country”; but the retreat of the enemy to New York had rendered their services unnecessary, and it was recommended to them to return.—Journals, August 8th.
[1 ]Alluding to the differences that had begun to prevail between the American and French officers.
[1 ]“If it be practicable and convenient for Congress to furnish me with some specie (gold, as more portable, would be most convenient), valuable purposes I think would result from it. I have always found a difficulty in procuring intelligence by the means of paper money, and I perceive that it increases. The period is critical and interesting, and the early knowledge of an enemy’s intention and movements too obvious to need explanation. Having hinted to the committee of Congress when at Valley Forge this want, I address this letter to you now, rather as a private than public one; because I do not wish to have the matter again mentioned, if Congress have been apprized of my wants, and find it inconvenient to comply with them.”—Washington to the President of Congress, 25 August, 1778.
[2 ]After suffering greatly in the storm, the French fleet appeared again off Newport, August 20th. General Greene and the Marquis de Lafayette went on board Count d’Estaing’s ship, and endeavored to persuade him to unite again in an attack upon the enemy. A council of war was held, which decided against it. Greene and Lafayette used all their powers of argument and persuasion to bring about a different result, but without effect. The whole fleet sailed from Rhode Island, and proceeded to Boston harbor for the purpose of repairs. This was a double disappointment and mortification to the American army. Under the present circumstances, and with the momentary expectation of a reinforcement of the enemy, it being impossible to prosecute the siege with any hope of success, General Sullivan withdrew his forces in the night of the 28th of August and marched to the north part of the Island. He was pursued by the enemy, and an action took place the next day. The Americans kept their ground till night, when they retreated to the main land without any molestation from the British.
[1 ]“The violent gale which dissipated the two fleets when on the point of engaging, and the withdrawing of the Count d’Estaing to Boston, may appear to us as real misfortunes; but with you I consider storms and victory under the direction of a wise providence who no doubt directs them for the best of purposes, and to bring round the greatest degree of happiness to the greatest number of his people.”—Washington to Governor Trumbull, 6 September, 1778.
[1 ]As soon as the French fleet returned to the coast of Rhode Island after its dispersion in the storm, Count d’Estaing wrote the following letter to General Sullivan:
[1 ]After alluding to the departure of the French fleet, and to the disagreeable situation in which the army was left by being thus deserted, the order added. “The General yet hopes the event will prove America able to procure that by her own arms, which her allies refuse to assist in obtaining.” Two days afterwards, however, General Sullivan thought it expedient, upon the pressing request of Lafayette, to counteract the impression which this order was found to produce, particularly on the French officers in the army. In the public orders of the 26th of August, he said: “It having been supposed by some persons, that, by the orders of the 24th instant, the Commander-in-chief meant to insinuate, that the departure of the French fleet was owing to a fixed determination not to assist in the present enterprise; and as the General could not wish to give the least color to ungenerous and illiberal minds to make such an unfair interpretation, he thinks it necessary to say, that, as he could not possibly be acquainted with the orders of the French Admiral, he could not determine whether the removal of the fleet was absolutely necessary or not, and therefore did not mean to censure an act, which those orders might render absolutely necessary.” This was an awkward explanation, and only proved that the occasion for it should have been avoided.
[1 ]“My last advices from Rhode Island were of the 29th ultimo. General Sullivan informed me by letter of that date, that he had retreated the preceding night to the north end of the island; that the enemy pursued him and the next day a warm action ensued which lasted an hour, in which our people obliged them to quit the field in disorder and with precipitation.”—Washington to Governor Clinton, 1 September, 1778.
[1 ]Before the retreat of General Sullivan from Newport, it was thought advisable to make one more effort to persuade Count d’Estaing to return, and, at the pressing solicitations of the board of general officers, Lafayette went to Boston for that purpose. He made the utmost despatch, in going and returning, but he did not reach the army again till the night after the battle. “That there has been an action fought,” he said, in writing to General Washington, “where I could have been, and where I was not, is a thing which will seem as extraordinary to you, as it seems to myself.” He arrived while the army was evacuating the island, and just in time to bring off the rear pickets, which he performed in a manner that gained him applause. Congress passed a resolve, thanking General Sullivan and the officers and troops under his command for their conduct in the action and retreat; and the president was specially “requested to inform the Marquis de Lafayette, that Congress have a due sense of the sacrifice he made of his personal feelings in undertaking a journey to Boston, with a view of promoting the interests of these States, at a time when an occasion was daily expected of his acquiring glory in the field; and that his gallantry in going on Rhode Island when the greatest part of the army had retreated, and his good conduct in bringing off the pickets and out-sentries, deserve their particular approbation.”—Journals, September 9th.
[1 ]The Continental bounty for each recruit who enlisted for three years or during the war was twenty dollars. It had been proposed by some of the members of Congress to pay one half in specie, and the other half in paper currency. The idea was abandoned in consequence of the above representations of the Commander-in-chief. But Congress voted an augmentation of ten dollars to the bounty already given, which was to be applied in such cases as General Washington should deem expedient.—Journals, September 8th.
[1 ]Washington wrote to Richard Henry Lee on the same subject as follows:—“An advance in silver dollars, of part of the bounty money, might facilitate the business of recruiting; but I conceive, that it would be attended with very pernicious consequences; not from the cause you speak of, to wit, discontenting other soldiers, but from another source, namely, opening the eyes of the whole and setting them to reasoning upon the difference between specie and paper. At present they know, that every comfort and necessary of life is insufferably dear, but do not inquire much after the causes; and, having no specie among them to fix the comparison, they do not attribute it to the depreciation of the paper money; but let them have ocular proof, that they can purchase as much with one silver as with four or five paper dollars, and have forestallers and the disaffected at work among them in purchasing up the specie, while the latter class of people are painting in lively colors the difference, and using at the same time every art in their power to poison their minds and sow the seeds of discontent, and then judge of the event. At any rate, I think the experiment would be dangerous, and ought not to be tried but as the dernier resort, lest by obviating one evil a greater be involved.”—September 23d.
[1 ]When Lafayette arrived in Boston from Rhode Island, Count d’Estaing’s fleet had just entered the outer harbor. The Council of Massachusetts was convened, and a conference was held between that body and the Count d’Estaing and Lafayette, on the subjects of providing for the fleet and of reinforcing General Sullivan’s army. Count d’Estaing wrote to Washington: “I offered and was ready, at the head of a regiment, to go and serve under General Sullivan, as I formerly did under Marshal Saxe, in the war which terminated in 1748. I should not have taken this step with the idea of strengthening an army with such a handful of men, nor of proving what is already known, that the French nation can sacrifice life with a good grace: but I was anxious to demonstrate, that my countrymen could not be offended by a sudden expression of feeling, and that he, who had the honor of commanding them in America, was and would be at all times one of the most devoted and zealous servants of the United States.”—MS. Letter, September 5th.
[1 ]General Clinton had received full instructions, before he left Philadelphia, dated March 21st. He was ordered to send five thousand men with the greatest secrecy and despatch to the West Indies, for the purpose of attacking St. Lucia. This was delayed for the want of transports, and the necessary ships for a convoy, particularly after the arrival of Count d’Estaing’s fleet. This order being unknown to Washington, the preparations for executing it were suspected to indicate a design of evacuating the city.
[1 ]“I was the more induced to come to this determination, as most of the accounts from New York seemed to lead to a belief, as they still do, that a considerable movement was and is in contemplation, if not an entire evacuation of the city, and this by water. Besides these reasons, the principal objects for taking post here do not now exist. One was to create every possible jealousy in favor of the expedition against Rhode Island; another, the consuming of the forage within its vicinity and towards Kingsbridge. The former is now over, and the latter in a great degree accomplished.”—Washington to the President of Congress, 12 September, 1778.
[1 ]Washington addressed the following questions to Brigadier-General Bayley, and asked for full information:
[1 ]Read in Congress September 15th, Referred to Mr. Lee and Mr. Drayton.
[1 ]“The army marched from White Plains on the 16th inst., and is now encamped in different places. Three brigades, composing the Virginia troops, part of the right wing, under the command of Genl. Putnam, are at Robinson’s near West Point, and two brigades more, composing the remainder, are with Baron de Kalb at Fishkill Plains, about ten miles from the town on the road leading to Sharon. The second line with Lord Stirling is in the vicinity of Fredericksburg; and the whole of the left wing at Danbury under the command of General Gates. These several posts appear to be the best we can occupy in the present doubtful state of things, as they have relation to the support of West Point, in case of an attack in that quarter, and are also on the communication to the eastward, if the enemy point their operations that way. Besides these dispositions, Gen’l Scott with a light corps, remains below, in the County about King’s Street.”—Washington to the President of Congress, 23 September, 1778.
[1 ]M. Tousard was a French office attached to the family of the Marquis de Lafayette. In the action on Rhode Island he rushed forward very courageously in advance of the troops, when an attempt was made to take a cannon, and found himself surrounded by the enemy. His horse was killed under him, and he lost his right arm, but escaped from capture. As a reward for this brave act, Congress granted him the rank of lieutenant-colonel by brevet, and a pension of thirty dollars a month for life.—Journals, October 27th.
[1 ]Mr. Hancock had presented Count d’Estaing with a copy of General Washington’s portrait at Boston, and had promised another to Lafayette.
[1 ]After the evacuation of Rhode Island, General Sullivan retired with a part of the army to his former encampment at Providence. Lafayette was left with the remainder of the troops at Bristol, near the enemy’s lines, with orders to watch their motions. This was an exposed situation on the neck of land between the bay and a river. He was afterwards removed farther up the country, behind the town of Warren. General Greene had left the army and gone to Boston, with the view of facilitating, in his capacity of quartermaster-general, the supply of Count d’Estaing’s fleet.—Sparks.
[2 ]Several ladies had lately come out from New York, who reported that a vessel had been captured and brought to that city, in which was contained a present from the Queen of France to Mrs. Washington, as “an elegant testimonial of her approbation of the General’s conduct,” and that it had been sold at auction for the benefit of the captors. This intelligence was so confidently affirmed, and from such a respectable source, that General Washington had requested the Marquis de Lafayette to make inquiry as to the truth of it, through the medium of the Marchioness at Versailles.
[1 ]On the morning of the 27th of September Colonel Baylor marched with his regiment of dragoons from Paramus, and took up his quarters at Herringtown, a short distance from Tappan. Two roads led from the enemy’s camp, one on each side of the Hackinsac River, which met at a bridge half a mile below Herringtown. At this bridge Colonel Baylor placed a guard of a sergeant and twelve men, with particular orders to keep a patrol of two men on each of these roads, who were to watch the roads to the distance of a mile from the guard; and be relieved every hour. These orders were strictly obeyed, but the enemy, being early informed of the exact position of the guard and of Baylor’s detachment, by disaffected persons in the neighborhood, marched up during the night, on the west side of the Hackinsac River, till they came within half a mile of the patrol, and then sent a party through the fields at some distance from the road, and cut off the guard and the patrols without being discovered. They pushed forward and made a sudden attack upon Baylor’s men, who were taken wholly by surprise.—Baylor’s MS. Letter, October 19th.
[1 ]Read Oct. 7th.
[1 ]Permission to return to General Washington’s head-quarters, for the purpose of consulting him on certain points of intelligence which the Marquis had lately received from France.
[2 ]In an address to Congress by the British commissioners, after Governor Johnstone had retired from the commission (Congress having refused to hold any further intercourse with him), they expressed themselves in terms derogatory to France; not very wisely, it must be allowed, considering the relations that then existed between the French and American national councils. The address was signed by all the commissioners, but Lord Carlisle’s name appeared at the head, as president of the board. The French officers thought that Lord Carlisle ought to be called to account for the free remarks, which he had sanctioned by his signature. This duty appertained to Lafayette, he being the highest amongst them in rank. It seemed to accord, also, with his own feelings, and in one of the letters, to which the above was an answer, he had asked General Washington’s opinion. Neither the advice of Washington nor of Count d’Estaing could divert him from his purpose. A challenge was sent; but it was declined by Lord Carlisle, who said, in a civil and good-humored reply, that he considered himself responsible only to his country and King for his public conduct and language.
[1 ]“The coincidence between your Excelly’s sentiments respecting the Marquis de Lafayette’s cartel communicated in the letter with which you honored me the 20th, and those which I expressed to him on the same subject, is peculiarly flattering to me. I am happy to find, that my disapprobation of this measure was founded on the same arguments, which, in Your Excellency’s hands, acquire new force and persuasion. I omitted neither serious reasoning nor pleasantry to divert him from a Scheme in which he could be so easily foiled, without having any credit given to him by his antagonist for his generosity and sensibility. He intimated, that your Excelly. did not discountenance it, and that he had pledged himself to the principal officers of the french Squadron to carry it into execution. The charms of vindicating the honor of his country were irresistible; but, besides, he had in a manner committed himself, and could not decently retract. I however continued to lay my friendly commands upon him to renounce his project; but I was well assured, that, if he determined to persevere in it, neither authority nor vigilance would be of any avail to prevent his message to Lord Carlisle. And tho’ his ardor was an overmatch for my advice and influence, I console myself with the reflection, that his Lordship will not accept the challenge; and that while our friend gains all the applause, which is due to him for wishing to become the Champion of his Country, he will be secure from the possibility of such dangers as my fears wd. otherwise create for him, by those powerful barriers, which shelter his lordship, and which I am persuaded he will not in the present instance violate.
[1 ]Read in Congress, October 13th. Referred to G. Morris, R. H. Lee, Witherspoon, S. Adams, and Drayton.
[1 ]General Gates had written from Danbury, where he was stationed: “The French fleet and Boston must be the sole objects of the British arms upon this continent. The season of the year will indeed admit only of a sudden and rash attempt, which success alone will justify. Desperate enterprises do frequently succeed; witness that of 1759 against Quebec. Had Sir Henry Clinton meant to attack this army, he would not have given so much notice and lost so much time. The enemy may leave the continent; if they do not, the French fleet is the prize they mean to contend for.”—MS. Letter, October 6th.
[1 ]The enemy in reality had no designs against the French fleet at Boston, though it is probable they kept up an appearance of such a purpose by way of feint. Sir Henry Clinton wrote to Lord George Germaine at this time, informing him that the convoy was ready, and five thousand troops would shortly be despatched to the West Indies, and three thousand more to Florida. “With an army so much diminished at New York,” he added, “nothing important can be done; especially as it is also weakened by sending seven hundred men to Halifax, and three hundred to Bermuda.”—MS. Letter, October 8th.
[1 ]Alluding to the appointment of major-generals on the 19th of February, 1777, in which Arnold and Lewis were superseded. See above, vol. v., 270. General Lewis resigned his commission in consequence of that measure.
[1 ]“As Sir Henry Clinton never complied with the request of granting passports for the transportation of Flour by Water, it becomes necessary that the Convention Troops should without loss of time be put in motion for Charlotteville in Virginia, agreeable to the order of Congress. You will be pleased to signify this to General Phillips immediately upon Receipt. I know of no way of conveying the troops to the place of their destination, but by calling upon the several States thro’ which they are to pass for a proper guard of militia, and Carriages sufficient to transport their baggage. You will therefore apply to the State of Massachusetts for the number necessary; and, when you have fixed the time of march and the Route, inform Govr. Trumbull, that he may be ready to receive them upon the Borders of Connecticut. I shall give him previous notice, that he may be prepared for such an event. Be pleased to inform me likewise, when the troops leave their present quarters, that I may make application to the Governors of New York and New Jersey, &c., for an Escort.”—Washington to Major-General Heath, 21 October, 1778.
[1 ]When the first news of Lord North’s conciliatory bills reached Congress, they resolved, that any man or body of men who should presume to make a separate or partial convention with the commissioners ought to be considered and treated as enemies of the United States. Intelligence had recently been received, that the commissioners “were about to send out, under the sanction of a flag, certain seditious papers, under the name and title of manifestos, to be distributed throughout the United States, with a view to stir up dissensions, animosities, and rebellion among the people.” Persons engaged in distributing papers of this sort, were declared not to be entitled to the protection of a flag; and it was recommended to the executive powers of the several States to take up and secure such persons in close custody, and that the papers should be printed in the public gazettes.—Journals, October 16th. The offensive manifesto is contained in the Remembrancer, vol. vii., p. 127. Copies were folded in separate parcels, and sent to the President of Congress, to a member in Congress from each of the States, to the governors of the States, military commanders, speakers of assemblies, ministers of the gospel, and judges. It is not likely, that many of the parcels reached their destination. General Sullivan received from the commanding officer at Newport a box of these papers, which he delivered over to the Assembly of Rhode Island. The flag ship, containing the copies for Congress and Pennsylvania, was cast away, and duplicates were forwarded with a letter from Dr. Ferguson.—Sparks.
[1 ]Colonel Butler’s Journal was printed by order of Congress. See Remembrancer, vol. vii., p. 253. An enterprise into the Indian country, near the sources of the Susquehanna, had been resuscitated on an extended scale. The successes of Colonel Butler in destroying some of the principal Indian towns, and the lateness of the season, caused the project to be deferred. The particulars may be seen in Marshall’s Life of Washington, vol. iii., p. 562.
[1 ]“I have just received intelligence from two different quarters, that the fleet, which sailed on the 19th and 20th instants from the Hook, contained only the invalids of the army bound for Europe, the officers of the reduced Regiments, and the families of several public and private Gentlemen. Perhaps all outward bound Vessels might have taken the benefit of Convoy, which may have enlarged the fleet to an uncommon size. My accounts still confirm a very considerable body of troops being embarked, but that they yet remain in the Bay of New York. Hence arose the mistake. My intelligences were not before sufficiently accurate, and I was naturally led to believe, that the fleet which left the Hook on the 19th and 20th had the troops on board. You shall be advised of the sailing of this second fleet.”—Washington to Major-General Heath, 25 October, 1778.
[1 ]Mr. Holker was agent for the French marine in America, and consul from France to the United States. Count d’Estaing wrote, that Mr. Holker would make an interesting communication in his name. “I entreat you,” said he, “not to confide the secret to any person, except Colonel Hamilton. His talents and his personal qualities have secured to him for ever my esteem, my confidence, and my friendship.” Count d’Estaing had likewise made known the affair, whatever it was, to the Marquis de Lafayette.
[1 ]“The Enemy have imbarked a considerable part of their Troops at New York and the transports have fallen down to the hook.—the Imbarkation still continues; but there is no evidence, so conclusive, as to lead to a demonstration that they mean a total evacuation—the proofs are equivocal and will apply to a general or partial one.—a short time, perhaps by the end of our days of Grace (the 11th Inst.), matters may be reduced to a certainty.—I have little doubt in my own mind, but that the greatest part of the Troops Imbark’d and Imbarking at New York, are destined for the West Indies and their Posts.—Boston and Charles Town are also talked of but with no other view, I conceive than to perplex and confound the judgment; and yet, so far as any collateral enterprizes (in pursuance of their Predatory and Nefarious plan) can be undertaken subservient to and correspondent with their more enlarged and important views, I have little doubt of their attempting them. For if motives of policy do not restrain sure I am that those of generosity & humanity will not prevent them from committing as much devastation as they can upon our defenseless towns—Country seats and helpless women and Children.—Resentment and unsoldierly practices in them now seem to have taken place of all the manly virtues; as I wish self interest in the shape of forestalling, engrossing &ca. may not do among us, if not checked in time by well applied & vigorous Laws in the several States.—Washington to Governor Henry, 3 November, 1778.
[1 ]Read in Congress, November 19th.
“P. S. In case Col. Graham has had the declaration translated you will do every thing to recover such from the persons who may have them.”—Washington to Brigadier-General Scott, 14 November, 1778.
[1 ]President Laurens wrote in reply:—“I believe, and upon good grounds, the scheme for an expedition into Canada in concert with the arms of France, originated in the breast of the Marquis de Lafayette, encouraged probably, by conferences with Count d’Estating, and I also believe it to be the offspring of the purest motives, so far as respects that origin; but this is not sufficient to engage my concurrence in a measure big with eventful mischiefs. As deeply as my very limited time and faculties had suffered me to penetrate, I had often contemplated our delicate connexion with France; and, although it is painful to talk of one’s own foresight, I had viewed and foretold fifteen months ago the humiliating state, to which our embryo independence would be reduced by courting from that nation the loan of more money, than should be actually necessary for the support of the army and of our unfortunate navy.
[1 ]Sir Henry Clinton had written to General Washington, November 10th, proposing a meeting of commissioners to agree on an exchange of the convention troops. As Washington considered these troops under the exclusive charge of Congress, he forwarded the letter to that assembly, and they passed a resolve authorizing an exchange upon the following principles: namely, that officers of equal rank should be first exchanged; next superior officers for an equivalent number of inferior; and if, after all the officers of the enemy should be exchanged, there should still be American officers in the hands of the British, these should be exchanged for an equivalent number of privates of the convention troops. Colonels Harrison and Hamilton were appointed by Washington as the American commissioners, and they met the British commissioners at Perth Amboy, on the 11th of December. The negotiation was ineffectual. The British commissioners wished to obtain a larger proportion of privates than officers. They proposed to exchange one half of the officers in their hands for those of equal or equivalent rank, and to receive privates, according to such a ratio as should be agreed upon, for the other half. They urged as a reason, that it was unjust and inhuman to separate the officers from the soldiers, whom they had been accustomed to command, and who had been their companions in captivity. This was a doctrine, which, however conformable to military rule, had not before been advanced during the present war; and, on this occasion, neither its equity nor expediency was obvious.
[1 ]Read in Congress, December 3d.
[2 ]Washington arrived at Elizabethtown on the afternoon of the 3d, and on the following night received intelligence that the enemy had proceeded in force up the North River as far as King’s Ferry, where they had landed and burnt a small house upon the wharf. Setting out from Elizabethtown at four o’clock on the morning of the 5th, he was proceeding to Middlebrook, and was met by an express a few miles from Paramus with information of the enemy’s having fallen down the river again. He returned to Paramus, and was again at Elizabethtown on the 8th, where he remained until the 11th.
[1 ]“It is most devoutly to be wished, that some happy expedient could be hit upon to restore credit to our paper emissions, and punish the infamous practice of forestalling and the engrossing such articles, as are essentially necessary to the very existence of the army, and which, by these practices, comes to it thro’ the hands of these people at 50 p. ct. advance, to the great injury and depreciation of our money, by accumulating the quantum necessary for ordinary purposes to an enormous sum, which must end in a total stagnation of all purchases, unless some remedy can be soon and effectually applied. It is also most devoutly to be wished, that faction was at an end, and that those, to whom every thing dear and valuable is entrusted, would lay aside party views and return to first principles. Happy, happy, thrice happy country, if such was the government of it! But, alas, we are not to expect that the path will be strowed with flowers. That great and good Being, who rules the Universe, has disposed matters otherwise, and for wise purposes I am persuaded.”—Washington to Reed, 27 November, 1778.
[1 ]This was a long and elaborate article, signed by General Lee, and containing a free discussion of the affair at Monmouth, and of some points relating to his trial. It was reprinted in Rivington’s Gazette.
[1 ]By the direction of Congress, in conformity to the above suggestion, General Washington left camp on the 22d of December, and repaired to Philadelphia for the purpose of holding a personal conference, respecting military affairs. The following were the proceedings of Congress on the occasion.
[1 ]The Marquis de Lafayette arrived in Boston on the 11th of December, preparatory to his embarkation for France, having been nearly six weeks on his way from Congress. He was detained on the road at Fishkill three weeks by extreme illness. Fatigue and exposure in travelling through a storm of rain on horseback had produced a fever, which for a time raged so violently that his life was despaired of. General Washington, whose head-quarters were a few miles from that place, was in a state of great anxiety, and by his personal visits and attentions exhibited proofs of his deep interest and warm attachment, which made a lasting impression upon his ardent young friend. Under the skilful treatment and constant attendance of Dr. Cochran, one of the principal physicians in the army, the disease took a favorable turn, and a natural vigor of constitution restored the patient, more speedily than could have been expected, to his accustomed health.—Sparks.
[2 ]Read in Congress December 17th. Referred to Laurens, M. Smith, G, Morris, S. Adams, and Burke.
[1 ]The Virginia House of Delegates voted four geldings to Washington.
[1 ]In writing to George Mason, he expressed similar sentiments. “I cannot refrain from lamenting,” said he, “in the most poignant terms the fatal policy, too prevalent in most of the States, of employing their ablest men at home in posts of honor and profit, before the great national interest is fixed upon a solid basis.”
[1 ]The charge against General Schuyler was neglect of duty, in not being present at Ticonderoga, when it was evacuated by General St. Clair. The entire proceedings of the northernc ampaign of 1777, while General Schuyler had the command, were investigated by the court-martial at his request. He submitted in detail his letters, instructions, and orders. He was unanimously acquitted by the court “with the highest honor,” and this acquittal was confirmed by Congress.—Journals, December 3d.
[1 ]“In a letter, which I had the pleasure of writing you the 18th Inst, I requested you to take the direction of the magazines, &c., that were to be prepared towards a certain expedition. I should have extended the idea to your taking the full command in the northern department; but I was restrained by a doubt how far the measure might be agreeable to your own views and intentions. The same doubt still remains; but as it is very much my desire you should resume that command, I take occasion to signify it to you. At the same time, if you have any material objections against it, I would not wish to preclude their operation. If you have not, you will be pleased to consider this as an order for the purpose. As you are fully acquainted with all the objects of the command, it is unnecessary to enter into a detail of particular instructions.”—Washington to Major-General Schuyler, 31 December, 1778.