Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO MAJOR-GENERAL CHARLES LEE. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. VII (1778-1779)
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TO MAJOR-GENERAL CHARLES LEE. - 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 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
[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: