Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO BRIGADIER-GENERAL NELSON, VIRGINIA. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. VII (1778-1779)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
TO BRIGADIER-GENERAL NELSON, VIRGINIA. - 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).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
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.
[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.