Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1779. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. VII (1778-1779)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
1779. - 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 THE COMMITTEE OF CONGRESS APPOINTED TO CONFER WITH THE COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF.
Philadelphia, 11th Jany., 1779.
I have perused the letter, which you did me the honor to write, containing several subjects of consideration referred by Congress to the committee of conference, and on which you desire my opinion.1 As I am not yet furnished with sufficient data relative to the first head, it will be necessary to defer touching upon it until I can by the means of the board of war inform myself more fully of the object of the expedition, the orders or instructions given to General McIntosh, and some other fundamental points.
I pass therefore to that, which regards the Commissary of Prisoners. His Letter to Congress evidently proves the necessity of prescribing a proper line of conduct to him, which in my opinion will be sufficiently pointed out in the following instructions, vizt., To reside at the Head-Quarters of the Army; To make no Exchanges but such as are directed by the Congress, the board of War, or the Commander-in-chief, (the directions of the two former to pass through the hands of the latter;) and, whenever he has occasion to send a Flag into the Enemy’s Lines with Provisions for prisoners, or any other business, to make application to the Commander-in-chief, who will judge of the cause and the propriety in point of time. The exclusive privilege, which Mr. Beatty seems to require, of regulating the intercourse by Flag, both with regard to the object and the time of sending them, astonishes me. It would give him powers, which no Commissary of Prisoners has ever yet been vested with. They must be dangerous, and certainly are unnecessary, as the Commissary can have no business in the course of his office, with which the Commander-in-chief ought to be unacquainted.—
In order to preserve harmony and correspondence in the System of the Army, there must be a controlling power, to which the several Departments are to refer. If any department is suffered to act independently of the officer commanding, collision of orders and confusion of affairs will be the inevitable consequence. This induces me to repeat, that all orders from Congress or the board of War to any department or officer should be communicated thro’ the Commander-in-chief, or, in the case of a separate Command, thro’ the Commandant.1
It was absolutely necessary, that the open and free intercourse with New York, which I found prevailing on my arrival at Elizabeth Town, the 1st of December, should be restrained; and I gave positive orders to General Maxwell to suffer no persons to pass, unless permission should be previously obtained from the Governors of the respective States, or myself; and I requested Governors Livingston and Reed to fix on the 1st day of every month for this purpose, to which they readily acceded.
12th.—Since writing as above, I have endeavored to gain every information relative to the Western Expedition, but have not been able to arrive at such a knowledge of the State of Affairs in that quarter, and the present views of the Commanding officer, as are essential to founding an explicit opinion. The object of the expedition was to give peace and security to our frontiers, by expelling the Indians and destroying their principal point of Support. In prosecuting a Plan for this purpose, much expense has already been incurred, and the end is not yet obtained. Neither is it in my power to determine, from any thing that has been communicated to me, in what train the operations are. But it appears to me, that, previous to renouncing the expedition, the Commanding officer should be consulted—and that a sudden Abandonment of the Undertaking would occasion not only the sinking of the whole expense, without reaping any benefit, but likewise on the other hand, give confidence to our enemies, and expose us to more frequent and destructive inroads.
By General McIntosh’s Letters to the Board of War, &c., it appears, evidently, that he has been disappointed in his expectation of men, provisions, and Stores.1 His orders seem to have been precise, his anxiety great; and, tho’ he may not have advanced agreeably to his own expectation and the views of Congress, yet, as a certain progress has been made, as the causes which gave rise to the expedition still exist, and Security to our Frontiers is not to be obtained by a defensive Plan, my Sentiments with respect to his future conduct, from the light in which I view the matter, are these. That General McIntosh should, (if he has not already done so,) decide finally, whether, with his present force, provisions, stores, prospect of supplies, and means of transportation, he can advance to Detroit, and whether the advantages or disadvantages of a Winter Expedition preponderate. If these should be determined in the affirmative, his plan should be prosecuted with vigor; if in the negative, the militia should be discharged,—every useless mouth dismissed, and the Winter spent in forming magazines, building batteaux, or such Canoes as can be transported into Lake Erie, by the way of Scioto or le bœuf, and will serve to coast it in when there. A time and place should be appointed for rendezvous, in the spring, of such farther force as shall be judged necessary for the operations of the Campaign, and effectual measures should be taken in the mean time to secure such force. I do not conceive, that more pointed directions than these can be given at this time, unless General McIntosh’s Situation and Views were better understood. My Ideas of contending with the Indians have been uniformly the same; and I am clear in opinion, that the most economical (tho’ this may also be attended with great expense) as well as the most effectual mode of opposing them, where they can make incursions upon us, is to carry the war into their own Country. For, supported on the one hand by the british, and enriching themselves with the spoils of our people, they have every thing to gain and nothing to lose, while we act on the defensive; whereas the direct reverse would be the consequence of an offensive war on our part.
The Western Expedition, upon the present Plan, stands unconnected with any other; consequently General McIntosh looked only to one object, and doubtless pursued the Route, which, in his judgment, led most easily to it; but, considering that his operations and those of the northward might have a correspondence, if his are delayed till the Spring, they might be varied so as to answer his object as well, if not better, and they would at the same time favor the other expedition. The Establishing of Posts of Communication, which the General has done for the Security of his convoys and Army in case of accident, is a proceeding grounded on military practice and Experience. These works do not appear to have occasioned any additional expense. I am, &c.
TO THE COMMITTEE OF CONGRESS.
Philadelphia, 13th January, 1779.
The minutes I had the honor of submitting to the consideration of the Committee, were intended as the Basis of a conference on the several points therein contained, in order that, after an interchange of Ideas and information, to be the better able to form a just judgment of the System of conduct and measures, which it will be proper for us to pursue. It is essential to consider the subject in several points of light, in which, for want of information, I feel myself greatly at a loss. The question does not turn upon military principles only. The State of European politics, and our own prospect of Finance and Supplies of every kind, are essential to a right determination. My situation has not put it in my power to be as fully acquainted with these, as I could wish; and, so far as they are concerned, my reasoning must be imperfect. Yet, as the Committee express a desire to have my Ideas more explicitly on the objects proposed to them, I shall endeavor to comply with their expectations in the best manner I can, under my present disadvantages, confining myself principally to a view of our own internal circumstances and prospects.
The first object to which I took the liberty to call their attention was the recruiting of the Army, towards which two modes were suggested: 1st, to enlist all the men now in it during the War, who are engaged for any term short of that, and to spare no Bounty for that purpose; 2d, to draft upon some plan similar to the one recommended to the Committee at Valley Forge last February.
Whether it will be necessary to adopt one or both of these expedients, will depend on what shall be determined respecting the plan of operation for next campaign. If the general principle of it be offensive, we must unite the two; if defensive, the first may answer. I said in that case no Bounty ought to be spared; but when I reflect upon the enormous State Bounties already given, I can hardly advise an addition to the Continental one, nor am I clear whether it would have the effect intended. If all State Bounties in money could be abolished, from the inequality, interference, and competition of which I am persuaded the recruiting Service has greatly suffered, I should recommend the Continental Bounty to be raised as high as a hundred and fifty dollars, or perhaps higher, and that this should be extended to recruiting in the Country as well as in the army. The expenses on this plan would be less, and the success I believe greater. Adequate provision should also be made for the officers employed in the recruiting Service.
In reasoning upon a plan of operations for the next Campaign, we ought, in my opinion, to suppose that the enemy will hold their present posts. Many strong arguments may be adduced for and against it; and in the present state of our information from Europe, so far as it has come to my knowledge, I do not think we have any sufficient Ground to conclude they will leave us. It is safest to suppose they will not, and to prepare for it. For if they do, though we may not be able immediately to make full advantage of their departure, for want of having turned our prepations into a right channel, yet this will be only an inconvenience. On the other hand, if we were to take our measures on the presumption of an evacuation, and this should not happen, we might be ruined by the mistake. One is a question of convenience, the other of safety.
On the supposition of a continuance of the War in America, in its present form, there are three points of view in which the conduct proper to be observed by us may be considered: one, the endeavoring to expel the enemy from their present posts in our front, and directing our whole effort to that object; another, the making an expedition against Niagara, to give effectual security to our Frontier and open a door into Canada, and remaining upon the defensive in this quarter; the third, the remaining entirely on the defensive, except such smaller operations against the Indians, as will be absolutely necessary to divert their depredations from us. The first is the most desirable; because, if it could succeed, it would be decisive, and put us out of the reach of contingencies;—The inquiry is, how far it may be practicable.
The enemy’s force at New York and Rhode Island, independent of the aid they might on any pressing exigency draw from the Refugees and Militia of the places in their possession, induced partly by inclination and partly by compulsion, may be estimated at about twelve or thirteen thousand effective men. Though this force is now divided, it can be so easily assembled, that, in operating against it in one part, we must expect to meet with the united opposition of the whole. Our force ought therefore to be sufficient to carry our point against the whole,—Double the number is the least it could be undertaken with, and this would be far from giving a certainty of success. The insular situation of the Enemy’s posts, assisted by strong Fortifications and by their shipping, would be obstacles not easily to be overcome.
According to this estimate, the smallest number with which the attempt could be undertaken, would be 26,000 effective men. If I am not mistaken, this is a larger number than we have ever had in the Field; and besides these, we should be still necessitated to keep Bodies of Troops on the Frontier and at other posts. This is a force, which, it is much to be feared we should find it very difficult if not impossible to raise. Our resources of men, I believe, rather decrease. There is abundant employment in every Branch of Business;—Wages, in consequence, have become so high, and the Value of our money so low, that little temptation is left to men to engage in the Army. We have tried the effect of drafting, and cannot expect more success than last year; so that, upon the whole, it is probable our force, after every exertion, would be rather less than more than it was in the preceding campaign; and if it should even be equal, it would be considerably short of what is required.
But if the men were to be had, a question arises, whether they could be subsisted. The difficulty and expense would be excessive, and it is much to be doubted, whether our money, tho’ aided by every exertion of Government, would be able to bring out the Resources of the Country to answer so immense a demand. Indeed, I am not altogether clear that the Resources of the Country are in themselves equal to it. There is at this time an alarming scarcity of Bread and Forage; and, tho’ it may be in a great measure artificial, yet there are symptoms of its being in some degree real. The great impediment to all vigorous measures is the state of our Currency. What prospects there are of relieving it, what is to be expected from the measures taken to that effect, the committee, to whom the subject is familiar, and best understood, will judge. But I fear their operation will be too slow to answer the purpose of the next Campaign; and if the vast expenditures necessary to the plan under consideration were to be made, I should have little hope of the success of any projects for appreciating the Currency that can be adopted.
One powerful objection to the undertaking is, that, if we fail in it, after straining all the Faculties of the State to the highest pitch, a total relaxation and debility might ensue, from which perhaps we should not be able to recover. But though I should be extremely doubtful of our ability to force the enemy from both their present posts, and very apprehensive of the consequences of an ineffectual attempt,—Yet I should think it might not be impracticable to oblige them to abandon one, that is, Rhode Island, and collect their whole force at the other. The manner of doing this would be by an attack upon New York, so as to force the Garrison of Rhode Island to come to its succor.—but to effect this, would require the exertion of our whole strength, and perhaps the object may not be thought adequate to the exertion.
The next plan suggested is to make an Expedition against Niagara, and remain upon the defensive here. This would not require so many men as the other, but it would be more expensive. Not less than a force equal to that of the Enemy could with propriety be left here, say thirteen thousand. In estimating the force requisite against Niagara, we must provide for establishing posts of communication as we advance, to protect our Convoys and secure a Retreat in case of disaster. We must also lay our account in having to do with the whole force of the Garrison of Detroit and Niagara, reinforced by all the Indians and other Banditti, who have hitherto infested our Frontiers; and we must even go further, and look towards a reinforcement from Canada. On a suspicion of our intention against Niagara, a part of the troops from Canada would naturally be sent to the aid of that important Fortress. The number, then, necessary for this expedition, to give a moral certainty of success, cannot be less than seven or eight thousand men. This will make 20 or 21,000 requisite for the execution of the Second plan. In addition to these, an extraordinary number of artificers, and a number of sailors and batteaux-men, will be wanted, over and above the ordinary attendants of an army. These must be included in the general estimate of numbers and Expense. The building and equipping of Ships and Boats, and providing of other Apparatus peculiar to an expedition of this nature, will be an immense addition to the article of Expense. The difficulty and consequently expense of supplies of every kind will be greater, than in the operations to which we have been accustomed, on account of the remoteness of the scene of action from the source of supplies, and from the nature of the Country thro’ which they are to be transported. Considering these things, which I have more fully delineated in my letter to Congress on the Canadian expedition, it will appear pretty evident, that the expense of the second plan under consideration will be greater than that of the first. Most of the objections, that militate against the other, apply to this. The object is certainly less; and it will not perhaps be thought sound policy to exhaust our strength and resources in distant and indecisive expeditions, while there is still a possibility of our having a call for our utmost efforts for the interior defence and absolute safety of these States.
It is much to be regretted, that our prospect of any capital offensive operations is so slender, that we seem in a manner to be driven to the necessity of adopting the third plan, that is, remaining intirely on the defensive; except such lesser operations against the Indians, as are absolutely necessary to divert their ravages from us. The advantages of this plan are these. It will afford an opportunity of retrenching our Expenses and of adopting a general system of Economy, which may give success to the plans of Finance Congress have in contemplation, and perhaps enable them to do something effectual for the relief of public Credit, and for restoring the Value of our Currency. It will also give some repose to the Country in general, and, by leaving a greater number of hands to cultivate the lands, remove the apprehension of a scarcity of supplies.
If this plan is determined upon, every measure of Government ought to correspond. The most uniform principle of Economy should pervade every department. [We should not be frugal in one part and prodigal in another.] We should contract, but we should consolidate our System. The army, tho’ small, should be of a firm and permanent texture. Every thing possible should be done to make the situation of the Officers and Soldiery comfortable, and every inducement offered to engage men during the War. The most effectual plan that can be devised for enlisting those already in the Army, and recruiting in the Country, ought to be carried into immediate execution.
I shall not enter particularly into the measures that may be taken against the Indians, but content myself with the general idea thrown out, unless it should be the pleasure of the Committee that I should be more explicit. The main Body of the army must take a position so as to be most easily subsisted, and at the same time best situated to restrain the Enemy from ravaging the Country. If they should hereafter weaken themselves still more, so as to give a favorable opening, we should endeavor to improve it.
This plan may perhaps have some serious disadvantages. Our inactivity will be an argument of our weakness, and may injure our Credit and Consequence with Foreign Powers. This may influence the negotiations of Europe to our disadvantage. I would not suppose it could alienate our allies, or induce them to renounce our interests. Their own, if well understood, are too closely interwoven; their National Faith and Honor are pledged. At home, too, it may serve to dispirit the people, and give confidence to the disaffected. It will give leisure for factious and discontented Spirits to work and excite divisions. If the Enemy were once expelled, no European misfortunes, on our side would probably tempt England to recommence the War in America; but, if they possess a footing among us, and have an army and a Fleet on our Coast, an adverse turn of affairs with our allies might enable them to renew their exertions here. How far these inconveniences ought to determine us to one great, vigorous Effort at all hazards, Congress can alone be a competent Judge.
The degree of probability there is, of an evacuation of these States for some time past has made it a favorite object with me to make eventual preparations for operating against Niagara in particular, and Canada in general, in case that event should happen.—I have given pretty extensive directions for this purpose. But the more closely I look into the state of our finances and resources, the more I am shaken in my judgment of the propriety of going into a very great certain expense for an uncertain advantage. If the enemy go away, it will be extremely disagreeable to be unprepared for improving the opportunity; but, when I consider the necessity of Economy in our present circumstances, I am almost ready to submit to that inconvenience. I shall however be glad to receive explicit instructions on this head.
I shall beg leave for the present to confine my observations to these points, and defer giving my Sentiments on other matters submitted, till these are determined. I am in some dilemma with respect to the propriety of my continuance in the city. Many reasons operate to make my presence with the army proper; and my stay here will become peculiarly ineligible, if any offensive plan should be preferred. I submit it to the Committee whether the other matters may not be as well transacted by letter from Camp, as by remaining here. I have the honor to be, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL PUTNAM.
I have before me your favor dated thro’ mistake the 31st Inst. and one of the 8th.
The mutiny of the Soldiers in Huntington’s brigade was on its first appearance of a very alarming nature, but I am in hopes from the success with which your spirited exertions were attended in dispersing them, that there is no danger of farther connection.
The conduct which a Commanding officer is to observe in cases of this kind in general, is to use every means for discovering the Authors of the mischief—to inflict instant punishment on them and reclaim the rest by Clemency. The impression made on the minds of the multitude by the terror of the example—and their inability to take any resolution when deprived of their Ring leaders—are a sufficient security against farther attempts. Humanity and Policy unite in prescribing such limits to Capital Punishments, when the Crime has been so general.
With respect to the application in the present instance, and the doubt which arises from the foundation of complaint which the men have, it is to be observed that their mode of pursuing Redress, is of so dangerous a tendency as to call for the exercise of wholesome severity—and tho’ the circumstances may require it to be tempered with more lenity than in ordinary cases—such a subversion of discipline and subordination cannot be passed unpunished. You will be best able to judge from the degree of culpability of those in confinement, what measures ought to be taken respecting them—if there are any proper subjects for execution among them—it is to be regretted that the matter has suffered any delay.
If the same causes should unluckily give birth to any future mutiny—the conduct above mentioned must be pursued—the severest and most summary example must be made of the Leaders—while a representation is made to the rest, in firm and at the same time conciliatory Language.—that no measure compatible with our present circumstances is omitted for providing them—that Mutiny will not only be ineffectual in procuring a Remedy but involve consequences infinitely worse than the evil complained of. * * *1
TO THE COMMITTEE OF CONGRESS.
Philadelphia, 20 January, 1779.
That the Officers of the Army are in a very disagreeable situation, that the most unhappy consequences are to be apprehended, if they are not speedily placed in a better, and that therefore some provision, more adequate than has yet been made, is absolutely necessary, are truths so obvious and so generally acknowledged, that it would almost seem superfluous to say anything to enforce them.—But it is a point in which, in my opinion, the public safety is so essentially concerned, that I cannot let slip any opportunity of urging its importance, and pressing it upon the public attention. I have more than once intimated, that even a dissolution of the army is not an improbable event, if some effectual measures were not taken to render the situation of the officers more comfortable. If this event has not happened, we ought not to infer from thence, that it will not happen. Many favorable circumstances have intervened to protract it, but the Causes that lead to it are daily increasing. Had it not been for the happy change, which took place in our political affairs last Winter, and the new prospects it opened, which for a time diverted the minds of the officers from an attention to their distresses, and encouraged a hope of their having a speedy termination, it is much to be doubted, from the discontents which then prevailed, whether we should now have had more than the shadow of an army. The temporary consolation derived from this has subsided, their passions have returned into the former Channel, the difficulty of supplying their wants has greatly increased, the expectation of the War being near its end has vanished, or at least lost a great part of its force.—The large fortunes acquired by numbers out of the army affords a contrast, that gives poignancy to every inconveniency from remaining in it.—The officers have begun again to realize their condition, and I fear few of them can or will remain in the service on the present establishment; It is unnecessary to add, that an Army cannot exist without officers.
The patience of the officers has been a long time nourished by the hope, that some adequate provision was in contemplation. Though nothing satisfactory has hitherto been done, their hopes have been still kept alive; But this cannot be much longer the case, and when they come once to fix an opinion, that they have nothing to expect, they will no longer combat the necessity, that drives them from the service. It is worthy of observation, that the state of inactivity, to which we may probably be compelled the next Campaign, will give leisure for cherishing their discontents, and dwelling upon all the hardships of their situation. When men are employed, and have the incitements of military honor to engage their ambition and pride, they will cheerfully submit to inconveniences, which in a state of tranquillity would appear insupportable. Indeed, not to multiply arguments upon a subject so evident, it is a fact not to be controverted, that the officers cannot suppport themselves with their present pay; that necessity will oblige them to leave the service unless better provided for; and, that remaining in it, those who have no fortunes will want the common necessities of life, and those who have fortunes must ruin them.
The object that ought to be aimed at, is not a partial expedient, so far to satisfy the officers as merely to keep them from leaving the service—they ought, if possible to be interested in it, in a manner that will call forth the full exertion of their Zeal. It is not enough that we keep an army together, we should endeavor to have one, with all those Cements that are necessary to give it consistency and energy—The principal one is to make the Officers take pleasure in their situation: If they are only made to endure it, the Army will be an insipid, spiritless Mass, incapable of acting with Vigor and ready to tumble to pieces at every reverse of Fortune.
But the great and difficult question is—what provision can be made to answer the purpose in view. I confess I am at a loss even to satisfy my own judgment. Men are in most cases governed first by what they feel and next by what they hope—present support and the relief of present necessity is therefore the first object to which we should attend. But after revolving the subject in every point of light, I can think of no practicable plan for this purpose that promises to be intirely effectual—An expedient long thought of but never really carried into execution will perhaps go furthest towards it and be the least objectionable of any that can be adopted. I mean the providing them with Cloathing by public authority at prices proportioned to their pay, at the value of the Currency when it was settled—This expedient if undertaken, ought to be prosecuted in earnest. It should not prove a nominal but a real relief, and in order to this, not only every exertion should be made to provide supplies on Continental account but each State should be seriously engaged to provide for its own Officers till the end is accomplished. If it should be found in some instances that Cloathing cannot be procured, a compleat equivalent in money is the next resource—With this the officers may endeavor to provide themselves—but this substitute would be subject to many inconveniences, that render it infinitely preferable they should be supplied with Cloathing. An officer may often not be able to supply himself with the money, and in order to do it may be obliged to leave Camp and exhaust a considerable part of it in expenses of travelling and subsistence.
It would be necessary to ascertain the quantity of Cloathing to be allowed in this way and the prices, and to have a pecuniary equivalent fixed in lieu of each article when they cannot be furnished, according to the actual difference between the estimated prices and the real present cost of the Articles. This would place the provision upon a certain footing and be more satisfactory, than if it should be left to the discretion of the Cloathier to make what charges and allowances he pleased.
The measure here recommended, alone would be far from sufficient—Something must be done in addition to enable the Officers to subsist themselves more comfortably in Camp. Their present Ration and the subsistence money allowed are very inadequate. The manner of living of those who have no other dependence is not only unsuited to the Station of an Officer, but even indigent and miserable. It would serve in some measure to remedy this, if instead of the subsistence money now granted, the Commissary General was every month, or every two or three Months to regulate the Value of the extra Rations they formerly received according to the real Cost, at the time of the Articles which compose it, and the Commander in Chief or commanding officer in a department empowered to order payment agreeable to that estimate.
But these expedients, though I should hope they would go a great way towards satisfying the officers would not give such perfect satisfaction as were to be desired. The most that could be expected from them, if so much, is that they would make their present situation tolerable. This would not compensate in their minds for the sacrifices of private interest and ease which they think they are making to the public good, and for the disagreeable prospect of future indigence which their continuance in the service exhibits, after they are no longer wanted in the Field. To attach them heartily to the service, their expectations of futurity must be interested.
After the Steps, which have been already taken in the Affair of a half-pay and pensionary Establishment, it is not without great reluctance I venture to revive it. But I am so thoroughly convinced of its utility, that notwithstanding some disadvantages, which may attend it, I am firmly persuaded it would in the main be advancive of the public good. I therefore take the liberty to bring it a moment under review.
I beg leave to repeat what I have said upon some former occasions, that no step could in my opinion be taken, which would be so pleasing to the officers, and which would bind them so forcibly to the Service. Our military System would certainly derive infinite Benefit from it; and it appears to me, that it ought to be a primary object of Government to put that upon the best footing our circumstances will permit. On principles of Economy I think there can be no solid objections to the plan. No mode can, I believe, be devised to give satisfaction, which will be more convenient and less expensive. The difference indeed in point of expense, between the present form of the half-pay establishment, and one for life, would be inconsiderable. Seven years will probably be the period of the lives of the greatest part of the incumbents, and few of the survivors will much exceed it. But the difference in the provision in the estimation of the officer’s own mind is very great. In one case he has a provision for life, whether it be long or short; in the other, for a limited period, which he can look beyond, and naturally flatters himself he shall outlive.
The Resolve directing the half-pay for seven years contains some provisos and restrictions, which, though perhaps unimportant in themselves, were interpreted in a manner that gave an unfavorable aspect to the measure, and more than disappointed its intended effect. With respect to a pensionary establishment for officers’ Widows, nothing can be a more encouraging reflection to a married Man, than that, in case of accident to himself, his family is left with some dependence to preserve them from want, and nothing can be a more painful and discouraging one than the reverse. The chief objection, which I have heard to this plan, is, that the principle of pensioning is incompatible with the maxims of our government. The truth of this objection I shall not controvert, but I think it applies equally to an establishment for seven years, as to one for life. It is alike a pension in both Cases, in one for a fixed and determinate, in the other for a contingent period. All that can be said is, that we submit to one inconvenience to avoid a greater; and, if it operates as a bad precedent, we must endeavor to correct it when we have it in our power.
One thing however I think it necessary to observe, that, unless the Committee should be fully convinced of the necessity of the establishment proposed, and should be clearly of opinion, that it will meet the concurrence of Congress, the best way will be, not to put it to the experiment of a debate. If it be once known, that such a question is in agitation, it will again raise the hopes and solicitudes of the officers, and, if it fails, renew all their former discontents on the same subject, and, under their present circumstances, with redoubled violence. It is a point in which their feelings are much engaged, and these ought not to be awakened if they are not to be gratified. I have just received a letter of the 9th instant from his Excellency the Governor of the State of Virginia accompanied by several late Acts of the Legislature both for recruiting their troops and more comfortably providing the officers and men. The general spirit of these Acts corresponds with the measures I have taken the liberty to recommend.
I have the honor to be, &c.
TO BRIGADIER-GENERAL McINTOSH.
Philadelphia, 31 January, 1779.
I have your favr. without date inclosing a Return of the Troops to the Westward and Colo. Gibson’s letter and message from the Indians. I make no doubt but you have had a sufficiency of difficulties to struggle with, but am glad to find that the steps you have taken have given at least a temporary relief to the Inhabitants upon the frontier, and I hope by pursuing a steady and properly concerted plan next Campaign we may, if we cannot engage the friendship of the savages, reduce them to the necessity of remaining quiet. To effect this, it is determined, at present, to carry the War into the Indian Country next Spring as early as the Season and the State of our Magazines will admit. No particular plan is yet fixed, nor are the places which will be the most proper objects of attack yet marked out. But as we may conclude that Fort Pitt will be one of the principal places from whence we shall commence our operations,—I must desire you will immediately upon the Rect. of this, set about making the following preparations and collecting the necessary intelligence of the State of the Country, Waters, &ca over which we shall probably pass. It will in the first place be necessary to provide Batteaux or Canoes (whichever may be thought most suitable for the Waters of that Country) for say 1000 or 1200 Men, and endeavor to form Magazines sufficient for the same number for three or four months. From your letter to me and those to the Board of War, I imagine you will be able to do little towards the latter, as the provisions must chiefly go from below, I shall therefore endeavor to put matters in a proper train for the formation of Magazines as early as possible, before I leave this town.
I would wish you to have the Country well explored between Pittsburg and Detroit by the way of Tuscarawas and also the water Conveyances to that post (Detroit) by the Scioto and other waters leading out of the Ohio towards Lake Erie, and the distance of Portage between the heads of those Rivers and the Waters of the Lake. Attention should also be paid to the face of the Country, whether wet or dry, level or broken, and how furnished with herbage—I would also have you make yourself perfectly informed of the Water and land communication between Pittsburg and Presqueile—what kind of Craft can pass up French Creek (or River la Bœuf) and whether such Craft can be transported across from French Creek to the Lake, and if they can, whether they would be of sufficient size and strength to coast it along Lake Erie—The Road from la Bœuf to Presqueile is probably much out of repair, it will therefore be necessary that those who are sent to gain information should take particular notice of its condition and whether it would be a work of much labor and time to make it passable for a Body of Men with the common incumbrances of Stores, Baggage, &ca. If the Batteaux or Canoes that are built in the Ohio, can be carried from the River la Bœuf to Presqueile—and can live in Lake Erie (I mean by coasting) and could pass in defiance of the Enemy’s armed Vessels upon the Lake, I should not hesitate to pronounce this the easiest, cheapest, and safest Rout to Detroit should that be made the object: But if an expedition against the Indians of the Six Nations should be determined upon in preference to the other, it will be necessary to inquire how far the Force assembled at Pittsburg seemingly with an intent to operate either against the Indians upon the Ohio, or agt. Detroit may be turned to a co-operation with other Bodies from Albany—from the Susquehannah, or perhaps from both—To form a judgment of the practicability of this, the distance between Fort Pitt and the Country of the Six Nations especially the Senecas, who are most numerous, warlike and inimical of the whole, should be exactly ascertained, and whether the Country is generally level or hilly, dry or swampy. If there are more Routes than one, that which admits of most water carriage should be preferred for obvious reasons. When the Northern Indians go to War with the Southern they fall into the Alleghany River and come down from thence to Fort Pitt. Whether they travel by land to the Alleghany or whether they make use of any water carriage is a matter worth enquiring into, they probably make use of the easiest and most expeditious Route, and if it serves them to come down to the Southward, it will be equally useful to us should we penetrate their Country, let it also be inquired how far this Route is wide of the falls of Niagara and Lake Erie.
Persons (either Indians or Whites) of trust should be hired for the several purposes before mentioned, they should not know that we ourselves are undetermined as to the plan of our operations, and then each party will suppose that the Route which they are sent to explore is the one by which we mean to carry on an expedition. If they betray the confidence reposed in them, they will deceive the Enemy in every quarter but that which may happen to be our real object. As the force collected at and the preparations made at Fort Pitt will point equally every way, it will add to the distraction of the enemy should they find out that we are making inquiries concerning the different Routes leading to their posts.
Should our Arms be turned against the Six Nations, and the Indians upon the Ohio and Country West of it shew a disposition for peace, they should be encouraged in it by all means, as it would be bad policy to irritate them while we are employed another way. If we can reduce or force the Six Nations to a submission it will have an admirable effect upon all the Western tribes, who tho’ perhaps full as powerful in fact, yet pay the utmost respect to them, and would not willingly offend a people who had chastised the most warlike Nations.
You will inquire what Roads and passes lead from the Northwestern Frontiers of Pennsylvania to Venango and other places upon Alleghany River above that post, and whether supplies for Troops in that quarter can be transported by such Roads or passes upon pack horses. You will inform yourself of the times that the Grass will have gained sufficient growth to subsist your Cattle and Horses and the Waters have fallen so as to make such of them fordable as are to be passed without Boats, that we may not begin to move from the Northward before you are ready. For whether there shall be a co-operation between your force and that from Albany and Susquehannah, or whether you act intirely in a different quarter from them, every good consequence will result from the attacks being commenced at the same time.
I would recommend it to you immediately to discharge every useless mouth that your Magazines may be spared as much as possible.
After having obtained the best information that you can upon the several points before mentioned—giving necessary orders for the establishment of Magazines as far as the circumstances and situation of things in that part of the Country will admit, and seen the Batteaus or Canoes in a proper train for execution, you will be pleased to repair to Head Quarters that something precise and definitive may be determined in a personal conference respecting the operations of the Campaign. You had better bring, or send before you if it will save time, a list of such stores as will in your opinion be necessary for the execution of either of the plans before mentioned.
Congress having by a late Resolve (Copy of which you have inclosed) vested me with the power of directing and superintending the military operations in all the departments in these States, the Board of War have delivered me all the papers, relating to the Affairs to the Westward and you will therefore probably not hear from them in answer to your late letters. You may be assured of every assistance from me to enable you to execute the objects of your command with satisfaction to the public and yourself, as I am, &c., &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL SCHUYLER.
It was not till the 5th instant, I returned to this place. While in Philadelphia what between Congress and a special committee of that body I was furnished with ample employment. I had few moments of relaxation, and could do little more than barely acknowledge the receipt of your obliging favors of the 27th of December and the 1st and 2d of January Ulto. Even now I find it impossible to be as explicit and comprehensive as I could wish in this letter my common business having run so much behind hand during my absence from the army, but as the season is advancing, and no time to be lost, which can be employed in preparing for such operations as our circumstances will allow us to adopt for the ensuing campaign, I shall thank you for your opinion and aid in the several objects of this letter. Some of them were contained in my last, however, I shall repeat them again for fear of a miscarriage.
1st. What number of men do you conceive necessary for an expedition against the hostile tribes of the Six Nations and the force which it is probable they will bring to their aid?
2d. What part of the Indian Settlement should be considered as the central point to which all the force of the expedition from the different quarters; should be directed where a junction of the whole should take place?
3d. Whether any and if so, what artillery will be necessary? And what stores most proper for such an expedition and the quantities of each?
4th. The best route to approach their settlements? Three different routes have been suggested. The 1st by the way of Fort Schuyler, the Oneida lake, and Cayuga or Seneca river. The second by a land march wholly from fort Schuyler, the difficulties of which are variously stated; some making the passage through the country easy, others representing it as the reverse. The 3d by a portage from the Mohawk river, to the East branch of the Susquehannah & down this to a branch made use of by the Indians in their invasion of our frontiers. The advisability of the second will depend in a great measure on the kind of country to be passed through, and that of the first and last upon the goodness and extent of the water carriage. For this will serve only in part; and requiring horses and pack saddles for the performance of the rest, it then becomes a question which is to be preferred in point of economy—time and other circumstances—That wholly by land, or that composed of both land and water portage.
5th. In case the 3d or last route should be preferred, what is the distance of transporting batteaux from the Mohawk river to the Susquehannah, and the physical or natural obstructions? This should be fully scrutinized. Indeed every foot of the route if possible should be described, and the difficulties and the distances from place to place minutely ascertained.
I could wish a similar critical examination of each of the other routes. This would be attended with other advantages, besides those arising to the expedition from a comparative view. The same attention given to each avenue by which the country is accessible must distract the enemy, and may produce a confusion and irresolution in their measures for defence,
6th. The route being fixed on, what time (making a reasonable allowance for unforseen delays) will it require to penetrate to the heart of the Indian country or to the principal object or point of the expedition.
If a water transportation is to be used either in whole or in part, what inconveniences or obstructions may be expected from the state of the rivers at the season in which the expedition should be executed? And if pack horses are to be employed, and their chief support to be grass, when should the operations commence. Further it is indispensably necessary to ascertain the precise moment for the movement of the main body that diversions from different points may be exactly timed for co-operation.
7th. What distance is it from the Seneca towns to fort Pitt? What kind of a country between? And the land and water transportation?
8th. Is it essentially necessary to have slight stockade forts erected as the Army advances, for the benefit of convoys, and the security of a retreat in case of misfortune? Or, is it, that the good to be expected from such works, would be more than overbalanced by the delays occasioned in erecting them, the diminution of strength which the army would suffer in small garrisons—and the advantages which the enemy may derive from the slowness of our movements with the knowledge of our designs. Or what is the proper medium?
9th. Will it do to have the provisions to follow after the army, in case there are no forts constructed, or must the whole stock accompany the army from its first movement?
10th. When ought the troops to rendezvous and where? And how long is it probable they will be engaged in this expedition?
11th. At what places should magazines be formed, and when, and for how many days?
12th. How many batteaux will be wanted for this expedition? or are those on hand of the proper kind and sufficient in number?
If we are to build more, no time should be lost. It should be set about immediately and the requisite number completed as soon as possible.
13. What precautions are to be devised to alarm the enemy in Canada, thereby to prevent the troops in that country coming to Ontario to the aid of the Indian nations?
To these many questions would occur, if I had more leisure to pursue the subject: But your time and good judgment will take in every other consideration of policy or importance. When you have committed your thoughts and enquiries on this occasion you will be pleased to transmit them by some trusty conveyance.
It will be necessary, immediately to employ proper persons unacquainted with each other’s business to mix with the hostile Indians that the most unequivocal information may be gained of their strength & sentiments, their intentions and what ideas they may have acquired of our design. We should also learn what support or assistance they expect in case our intended expedition should be known to them; or what precautions they are taking to oppose our operations.
The Indians in friendship with us, may be sent on this purpose. The half tories also if they can be engaged, and will leave pledges as a security for their fidelity might prove very useful instruments. Similar investigations should be carried into Canada, and the garrison at Niagara.
I shall likewise depend on your exertions in having the different routes to the object of the expedition critically explored both by Indians and others, so that a complete knowledge of distances, natural difficulties and the face and nature of the country may be precisely obtained.
I must beg the use of your manuscripts a little longer. Some of them I think interesting. I shall keep them till I find a safe hand to intrust them to or till I have the pleasure of seeing you at Camp. I am, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Yesterday morning a detachment of the enemy from Staten Island made an attempt to surprise the post at Elizabethtown. On receiving information of it, General St. Clair with the Pennsylvania division, and General Smallwood with the Maryland division, were put in motion by different routes to form a junction at the Scotch Plains, and proceed to reinforce General Maxwell and act as circumstances should require. Intelligence of the sudden retreat of the enemy occasioned their recall before they had advanced far. The enclosed copy of a letter from General Maxwell will furnish all the particulars I have received of this fruitless incursion.
Through hurry of business in Philadelphia and since my arrival here, the papers relating to the inquiry into the conduct of the late quartermaster-general have till now escaped a particular consideration. A difficulty occurs in executing the direction of Congress for bringing the affair to a military decision, which requires to be explained. It is a received opinion, that Major-General Mifflin has resigned his commission in the army. If this be true, as he is no longer an officer, I should not conceive that he can be amenable to a military tribunal. I request to be favored with information on this head. With very great respect and esteem, I have the honor to be, &c.
TO JOHN JAY, PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Middlebrook, 1 March, 1779.
I have been a little surprised, that the several important pieces of intelligence lately received from Europe, (such parts I mean, as are circulated without reserve in conversation), have not been given to the public in a manner calculated to attract the attention and impress the minds of the people. As they are now propagated, they run through the country in a variety of forms, are confounded in the common mass of general rumors, and lose a great part of their effect. It would certainly be attended with many valuable consequences if they could be given to the people in some more authentic and pointed manner. It would assist the measures taken to restore our currency, promote the recruiting of the army and our other military arrangements, and give a certain spring to our affairs in general. Congress may have particular reasons for not communicating the intelligence officially (which would certainly be the best mode if it could be done;) but, if it cannot, it were to be wished, that as much as is intended to be commonly known, could be published in as striking a way, and with as great an appearance of authority as may be consistent with propriety.
I have taken the liberty to trouble you with this hint, as sometimes things the most obvious escape attention. If you agree with me in sentiment, you will easily fall upon the most proper mode for answering the purpose. With very great esteem and regard, I am, &c.1
TO GOVERNOR LIVINGSTON.
I was a few days ago honored with yours of the 18th ulto., inclosing the depositions of several inhabitants and civil officers, respecting ill treatment recd. from sundry officers of the army, and a refusal in some of them to submit to the civil process. Major Call and Mr. Heath, two of the officers, are at Winchester in Virginia, in Winter-Quarters, a very considerable distance from hence; but, if you are of opinion, that there is an immediate necessity for their appearance to answer the charges against them, I will order them down. Capt. Van Heer and Mr. Skinner are in Camp. From the conclusion of your letter, you seem willing to suffer the matter to be compromised by the parties, to prevent further trouble. I rather wish that the several charges may be fully investigated, and that the officers may, if they are found guilty, be dealt with according to law, civil or military, in whichever Court they may be tried, or, if innocent, honorably acquitted. I therefore propose, that the parties accusing Van Heer and Skinner should institute civil suits against them, to which I will engage they shall submit; or, if they will leave it to a military determination, I will order a Court-Martial, which will be the speediest method of bringing it to an issue.
I am every now and then embarrassed by disputes between the officers and Inhabitants, which generally originate from the latter coming into camp with liquor, selling it to the Soldiers, and, as the officers allege, taking clothing, provisions, or accoutrements in pay. There being no civil redress, that I know of, for a grievance of this nature, the officers undertake to punish those suspected of such practices, sometimes with reason, and probably sometimes without foundation. If there is no law of the State to prevent this kind of commerce between the people and the Soldiery, it would have a very good effect to procure one, prohibiting an inhabitant from selling liquor to the Soldiers, within the limits of the Camp, without leave obtained from the commanding officer of the quarter into which it may be brought, and imposing a penalty, recoverable by a summary process before a magistrate, upon any person receiving Arms, Accoutrements, Clothing, or provisions from a soldier by way of purchase, or in exchange for any commodity brought into camp for sale.
An act of this kind would relieve the considerate officer from the disagreeable necessity, in which he is often involved, of submitting to a grievance destructive of every military principle, or undertaking to punish a citizen by virtue of his own authority; and it will point out a mode of redress to others, too willing perhaps to exercise military power, when they have an opportunity or excuse for so doing. I congratulate you on your late escape at Elizabethtown, and I am very sincerely, dear Sir, your most obedient servant.1 I return you the affidavits agreeable to your request.
TO PRESIDENT REED.
Head Quarters, 3 March, 1779.
The president of Congress has transmitted me the Instructions of the Assembly of your State to their Delegates, founded on a representation of the distresses of your western frontiers—and farther the opinion of a Committee of the House on the subject of their defence—together with the two Resolves made in consequence.
I am therefore to inform Your Excellency that offensive operations against the hostile tribes of Indians have been meditated and determined upon some time since—that preparations have been making for that purpose—and will be carried into execution at a proper season if no unexpected event takes place, and the situation of affairs on the Seaboard will justify the undertaking—But the profoundest secrecy was judged necessary to the success of such an Enterprise for the following obvious reasons—That immediately upon the discovery of our design the Savages would either put themselves in condition to make head against us, by a reunion of all their force, and that of their allies, strengthened besides by succors from Canada,—or elude the expedition altogether—which might be done at the expence only of a temporary evacuation of forests which we could not possess—and the destruction of a few settlements, which they might speedily reestablish.
Tho’ this matter is less under the veil of secrecy than was originally intended—Your Excellency will see the propriety of using such precautions as still remain in our power—to prevent its being divulgated—and of covering such preparations as might tend to announce it—with the most specious disguise that the enemy’s attention may not be awakened to our real object.
With respect to the force to be employed on this occasion—it is scarcely necessary to observe that the detaching a considerable number of Continental Troops on such a remote expedition would too much expose the country adjacent to the body of the enemy’s Army.
There must therefore be efficacious assistance derived from the States whose frontiers are obnoxious to the inroads of the barbarians—and for this I intended at the proper time to make application—Your Excellency will be pleased to acquaint me what force yours in particular can furnish in addition to the five Companies voted by Congress—when you think those Companies or the major part of them will probably be raised—What proportion of the levies of your State might be drawn from those inhabitants who have been driven from the frontier—And what previous measures can be taken to engage them without giving an alarm—This Class of people besides the advantages of knowledge of the Country, and the particular motives with which they are animated—will be most likely to furnish the troops best calculated for this service—
They should be Corps of active Rangers, who are at the same time expert marksmen and accustomed to the irregular kind of wood-fighting practiced by the Indians. Men of this description embodied under proper officers would be infinitely preferable to a superior number of Militia unacquainted with this species of war and who would exhaust the magazines of Ammunition and Provision—without rendering any effectual service.
It will be a very necessary attention to avoid the danger of short inlistments—their service should be limited only by the expedition or a term amply competent to it—other wise we shall be exposed to the ill-consequences of having their engagements expire at an interesting perhaps a critical juncture.—I have the honor to be, etc.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL GATES.
Middlebrook, 6th March, 1779.
By the enclosed copy of a resolution of the 25 of Feby. last, you will perceive it is the desire of Congress, that some offensive expedition should be carried on against the Indians the ensuing campaign. With an eye to a measure of this kind, I have some time since directed preparations to be made at such places, as appeared to me most proper for the purpose; to be completed by the 1st day of May, at which time it is my intention, that the operation shall begin. The objects of this expedition will be effectually to chastise and intimidate the hostile nations, to countenance and encourage the friendly ones, and to relieve our frontiers from the depredations to which they would otherwise be exposed. To effect these purposes, it is proposed to carry the war into the heart of the country of the Six Nations, to cut off their settlements, destroy their next year’s crops, and do them every other mischief, which time and circumstances will permit.
From the best information I have been hitherto able to collect, the whole number of warriors of the Six Nations, including the Tories who have joined them, will amount to about three thousand. To these must be added the aid they may derive from Canada, and from the British garrisons on the frontiers. The force we shall have it in our power to employ on the expedition will be about four thousand Continental troops, (I mean rank and file fit for service,) besides such aids of Militia as may be deemed absolutely necessary. These, however, will not be large, as Congress are endeavoring to pursue a plan of strict economy, and to avoid calling out the militia, which is attended with great loss and expense. To obviate the necessity of it, I have strained the supply of Continental troops to the utmost extent, which a comparison of our collective force and that of the enemy will possibly permit. Three thousand of the abovementioned number will compose the main body; the remainder will be employed in different quarters to harass and distract the enemy, and create diversions in favor of the principal operation. It would be improper to hazard upon paper a more minute detail of the plan.
I am now to express my wish, that it may be agreeable to you to undertake the command of this expedition; in which case you will be pleased to repair to head-quarters without delay, to make the necessary previous arrangements and enter upon the business. The season is so far advanced, that not a moment’s time is to be lost. But, as I am uncertain whether your health or other considerations will permit you to accept a command of this nature, and as the advanced state of the season already mentioned will not allow me to wait an answer, I have enclosed a letter for General Sullivan, on whom, if you decline it, it is my intention the command shall devolve. Should you accept, you will retain the letter and return it to me; if not, you will immediately transmit it to him. Whether you accept or not, you will be sensible of the necessity of secrecy. The less our design is known or suspected by ye enemy, the more easy and certain will be its execution.1 It will also be of importance to its success to endeavor to prevent succors coming from Canada. This will be best effected by hanging out false appearances to deceive the enemy there, and beget jealousies for their own security. Among other expedients conducive to this end, one may be, to make inquiry with an air of mystery, and yet in such a way as will spread the idea, what force of militia could be derived from the State of Massachusetts towards an invasion of Canada, by the way of Coos, in case of the appearance of a French fleet and army in the river St. Lawrence. You will employ this and any other artifices that may occur to you for the purpose.2 In the event of General Sullivan’s leaving Providence, you will take the immediate command of the troops now under him. I am, &c.
TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE, PARIS.
Camp atMiddlebrook, 8 March, 1779.
My Dear Marquis,
I am mortified exceedingly, that my letter from Philadelphia, with the several enclosures, did not reach Boston before your departure from that port. It was written as soon as Congress had come to a decision upon the several matters, which became the subject of the President’s Letter to you, and was committed (for conveyance) to the messenger, who was charged with his despatches to that place. How it happened (unless the passage of the North River was interrupted by Ice) that Letters dated Philadelphia the 29th of Decr. should be till the 15th of the following month on their passage to Boston, is inconceivable—equally so is it—that I have not had the Letters returned to me by Majr. Neville, who I am told (but this is no excuse) is indisposed at Fish Kill.—His withholding these letters renders it necessary for me to give you the trouble of duplicates by Captn. McQueen who will do me the favor of handing this to you; and whose merits are too well known to you, to stand in need of any recommendation from me.
Monsr. La Colombe did me the honor of delivering to me your favors of the 5th, 18th & 10th of Jany., and will probably be the bearer of my thanks for the affectionate manner in which you have expressed your sentiments in your last adieu, than which nothing can be more flattering and pleasing; nor is there any thing more wished for by me, than opportunities of giving substantial proofs of the sincerity of my attachment to and affection for you.1
Nothing of importance hath happened since you left us, except the Enemy’s invasion of Georgia, and possession of its capital; which, tho it may add something to their supplies on the score of Provisions, will contribute very little to the brilliancy of their arms. For, like the defenceless island of St. Lucia, it only required the appearance of force to effect the conquest of it, as the whole militia of the State did not exceed twelve hundred men, and many of them disaffected. General Lincoln is assembling a force to dispossess them, and my only fear is, that he will precipitate the attempt before he is fully prepared for the execution. In New York and at Rhode Island, the Enemy continued quiet till the 25th ultimo, when an attempt was made by them to surprise the post at Elizabeth; but failing therein, and finding themselves close pressed, and in danger from detachments advancing towards them from this army, they retreated precipitately through a marsh waist-deep in mud, after abandoning all their plunder; but not before they had, (according to their wonted custom,) set fire to two or three Houses. The Regiment of Anspach, and some other troops, are brought from Rhode Island to New York. It would my dear Marquis have given me very great pleasure to have answered your expectation respecting Messrs. la Colombe and Houden, but Congress have experienced so many unfortunate instances of disgust, and consequent resignations in the Army arising from irregular promotions and brevet Commissions, that they found it absolutely necessary to discontinue the practice, and had done so before I received your Letters, to the no small disappointment, and loss, of many Gentlemen, whom I found in Philadelphia.
We are happy in the repeated assurances and proofs of the friendship of our great and good ally, whom we hope and trust, ere this, may be congratulated on the birth of a Prince, and on the joy which the nation must derive from an instance of royal felicity. We also flatter ourselves, that before this period the Kings of Spain and the Two Sicilies may be greeted as allies of the United States; and we are not a little pleased to find, from good authority, that the solicitations and offers of the court of Great Britain to the Empress of Russia have been rejected; nor are we to be displeased, that overtures from the city of Amsterdam, for entering into a commercial connexion with us, have been made in such open and pointed terms. Such favorable sentiments, in so many powerful Princes and States, cannot but be considered in a very honorable, interesting, and pleasing point of view, by all those who have struggled with difficulties and misfortunes to maintain the rights and secure the liberties of their country. But, notwithstanding these flattering appearances, the British King and his ministers continue to threaten us with war and desolation. A few months, however, must decide whether these or Peace is to take place. For both we will prepare; and, should the former be continued, I shall not despair of sharing fresh toils and dangers with you in the Plains of America; but, if the latter succeeds, I can entertain little hopes, that the rural amusem’ts of an infant world, or the contracted stage of an American theatre, can withdraw your attention and services from the gayeties of a court, and the active part which you will more than probably be called upon to share in ye admr. of yr. government. The soldier will then be transformed into the statesman, and your employment in this new walk of life will afford you no time to revisit this continent, or think of friends who lament yr. absence.
The American Troops are again in Hutts; but in a more agreeable and fertile country, than they were in last winter at Valley Forge; and they are better clad and more healthy, than they have ever been since the formation of the army. Mrs. Washington is now with me, and makes a cordial tender of her best regards to you; and, if those of strangers can be offered with propriety, and will be accepted, we respectively wish to have them added to your amiable Lady. We hope and trust, that your passage has been short, agreeable, and safe, and that you are as happy, as the smiles of a gracious Prince, beloved wife, warm friends, and high expectations can make you. I have now I think complied with your request in writing you a long letter; and I shall only add, that, with the purest sentiments of attachment, and the warmest friendship and regard, I am, my dear Marquis, your most affectionate and obliged, &c.
P. S. Harrison and Mead are in Virga.—all the other Gentn. of my suit join most cordially in tendering their best respects to you.
March 10th. I have this moment received the letters which were in the hands of Majr. Neville, accompanied by yr. favors of the 7th & 11th of Jany.—the Majr. himself is not yet arrived at head Qrs., being, as I am told very sick—I have again to thank you, my dear frd. for the repeated sentiments of friendship and affection which breathed so conspicuously in your last farewell; & to assure you that I shall always retain a warm & grateful remembrance of them.—Major Neville shall have my consent to repair to you in France; if his health will permit & the sanction of Congress can be obtained to whom all applications of officers for leave to go out of the United States are referred.—
TO SIR HENRY CLINTON.
It is much to be regretted, that all the attempts, which have been made to establish some general and adequate rule for the exchange of prisoners, have hitherto been ineffectual. In a matter of so great importance, too much pains cannot be taken to surmount the obstacles that lie in its way, and to bring it to a satisfactory issue. With an earnest desire to effect this, the honorable the Congress have again authorized me to propose the settlement of a general cartel, and to appoint commissioners with full powers for that purpose. This proposition, in obedience to their order, I now make; and if it should meet with your concurrence, I shall be ready to send commissioners to meet others on your part, at such time and place as shall be judged convenient.
That the present attempt may not prove as unsuccessful as former ones, it is to be hoped, if there is a meeting of commissioners, that the gentlemen on both sides, apprized of the difficulties which have occurred, and with a liberal attention to the circumstances of the parties, will come disposed to accommodate their negotiations to them, and to level all unnecessary obstructions to the completion of the treaty. I have the honor to be with due respect, &c.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
I have waited with anxious expectation for some plan to be adopted by Congress, which would have a general operation throughout the States for compleating their respective battalions. No plan for this purpose has yet come to my knowledge, nor do I find that the several governments are pursuing any measures to accomplish the end by particular arrangements of their own legislatures. I therefore hope Congress will excuse any appearance of importunity in my troubling them again on the subject, as I earnestly wish to be enabled to realize some ideas on what may be expected towards the completion of our Battalions by the opening of the next campaign. They are already greatly reduced, and will be much more so by that time, owing to the expiration of the term of Service of the last year’s drafts.
At ye posts in the highlands, Nixon’s, Paterson’s, and Learned’s Brigades alone will suffer (by the 1st of April) a diminution of 847 men, which must be replaced, illy as they can, & reluctantly as they will be spared from the other Posts. The Committee, with whom I had the honor to confer, were of opinion, that the regimts. now in Service should be continued & completed. This was confirmed by the resolve of Congress of the 23d of Jany. last, which also directed some additional encouragements for recruiting the army during the war. Aware that this expedient, though a very useful one, could not be altogether relied on, especially if the interference of State bounties were still permitted, I furnished the Committee with my ideas of the mode, which afforded the most certain prospect of success. I shall not trouble Congress with a repetition of these, as I doubt not they have been fully reported by the Committee. Among the Troops of some States, recruiting in Camp on the new bounties has succeded tolerably well; among others, where the expectations of State bounties have had more influence, very ill1 ; upon the whole, the success has been far short of our wishes, and will probably be so of our necessities.
I have not yet made any attempt to recruit in the country, for reasons which will be communicated by the committee; added to which, I have received information from Colonel Rawlings, who has been authorized by Congress to recruit the three companies still remaining of his battalion to their complement, that he could make no progress, in the business, on account of the inferiority of the Continental bounty to that of Virginia. The measure of enlisting in the Country, in my opinion, depends so much on the abolishing of State bounties, that without it I am doubtful whether it will be worth the experiment. State bounties have been a source of immense expense and many misfortunes. The sooner the practice can be abolished, and system introduced in our manner of recruiting and keeping up our battalions, as well as in the administration of the several departments of the army, the sooner will our Security be established and placed out of the reach of contingencies. Temporary expedients, to serve the purposes of the moment, occasion more difficulties and expense than can easily be conceived.1
The superior information, which Congress may have of the political state of affairs in Europe, and of combining circumstances may induce them to believe, that there will soon be a termination of the war; and therefore that the expense of vigorous measures to reinforce the army may be avoided. If this should be the case, I dare say the reasons will be well considered before a plan is adopted, which, whatever advantages of economy it may promise, in an eventual disappointment may be productive of ruinous consequences. For my own part, I confess I should be cautious of admitting the supposition, that the War will terminate without another desperate effort on the part of the enemy. The speech of the Prince, and the debates of his ministers, have very little of the aspect of peace; and if we reflect, that they are subsequent, (as I apprehend they must have been,) to the events, on which our hopes appear to be founded, they must seem no bad argumts. of a determination in the British cabinet to continue the war. ’T is true whether this be the determination or not, ’tis a very natural policy, that every exertion should be made by them to be in the best condition to oppose their enemies, and that there should be every appearance of vigor and preparation. But if the ministry had serious thoughts of making peace, they would hardly insist so much as they do on the particular point of prosecuting the American war. They would not like to raise and inflame the expectations of the People on this subject, while it was secretly their intention to disappoint them. In America, every thing has the complexion of a continuance of the War. The operations of the enemy in the Southern States do not resemble a transient incursion, but a serious conquest. At their post in this quarter, every thing is in a state of tranquillity, and indicates a design at least to hold possession. These considerations joined to the preceding, The infinite pains that are taken to keep up the spirits of the disaffected and to assure them of support and protection, and several other circumstances, trifling in themselves but powerful when combined, amount to no contemptible evidence, that the contest is not so near an end as we could wish. I am fully sensible of many weighty reasons on the opposite side; but I do not think them sufficiently conclusive to destroy the force of what has been suggested, or to justify the sanguine inferences many seem inclined to draw.
Should the Court of Britain be able to send any reinforcements to America the next campaign, and carry on offensive operations, and should we not take some effectual means to recruit our battalions, when we shall have detached the force necessary to act decisively against the Indians, and the remaining drafts shall have returned home, the force which remains for our defence will be very inconsiderable indeed. We must then, on every exigency, have recourse to the militia, the consequence of which, besides weakness and defeat in the field, will be double or treble the necessary expense to the public. To say nothing of the injury to agriculture, which attends calling out the militia on particular emergencies, and at some critical seasons, they are commonly twice as long in coming to the place where they are wanted and returning home, as they are in the field, and must of course for every day’s real service receive two or three days’ pay, and consume the same proportion of provisions.
When an important matter is suspended for deliberation in Congress, I should be sorry that my solicitude to have it determined should contribute to a premature decision. But, when I have such striking proofs of public loss and private discontent, from the present management of the clothing department; when accts. inadmissible, if any system existed, frequently remind me of the absolute necessity of introducing one; when I hear, as I often do, of large importations of cloathing, which we never see, of quantities wasting and rotting in different parts of the country, the knowledge of which reaches me by chance; when I have reason to believe, that the money, which has been expended for cloathing the army, if judiciously laid out and the cloathes regularly issued, would have effectually answered the purpose, and when I have never, till now, seen it otherwise than half naked; when I feel the perplexity and additional load of business thrown upon me, by the irregularity in this department, and by applications from all parts of the army for relief; I cannot forbear discovering my anxiety to have some plan decided for conducting the business hereafter in a more provident and consistent manner. If the one proposed to the Committee does not coincide with the Sentiments of Congress, I should be happy if some other could be substituted. With the greatest respect, I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO HENRY LAURENS, IN CONGRESS.
Middlebrook, 20 March, 1779.
I have to thank you, and I do it very sincerely, for your obliging favors, of the 2d and 16th Inst., and for their several enclosures, containing articles of intelligence. I congratulate you most cordially on Campbell’s precipitate retreat from Fort Augusta. What was this owing to? It seems to have been a surprise even upon Williamson. But I rejoice much more on acct. of his disappointed application to the Creek Indians. This, I think, is to be considered a very important event; and may it not be the conjectural cause of his (Campbell’s) hasty return? This latter circumstance cannot but be a fresh proof to the disaffected (in that country,) that they are leaning upon a broken reed. Severe examples should, in my judgment, be made of those, who were forgiven former offences and again in arms against us.
The policy of our arming slaves is in my opinion a moot point, unless the enemy set the example.1 For, should we begin to form Battalions of them, I have not the smallest doubt, if the war is to be prosecuted, of their following us in it, and justifying the measure upon our own ground. The upshot then must be, who can arm fastest.—And where are our arms? Besides, I am not clear that a discrimination will not render slavery more irksome to those who remain in it. Most of the good and evil things in this life are judged of by comparison; and I fear a comparison in this case will be productive of much discontent in those, who are held in servitude. But, as this is a subject that has never employed much of my thoughts, these are no more than the first crude Ideas that have struck me upon ye occasion.
I had not the smallest intimation of Monsr. Gerard’s passing through Jersey,2 till I was favored with your letter, and am now ignorant of the cause, otherwise than by conjecture. The enclosed I return as Mr. Laurens left this some days ago for Philadelphia, on his way to the Southward. Mrs. Washington joins me in respectful compliments to you, and, with every sentiment of regard and attachment, I am, dear Sir, &c.
TO COLONEL DANIEL BRODHEAD, AT FORT PITT.
My last to you was on the 5th instant, a Copy of which I now enclose, also Copies of mine of the 31st January, 15th Feby. and 5th March to General McIntosh, lest any accident should have happened to the originals.
I have directed Colo. Rawlings, with his Corps consisting of three Companies, to march from Fort Frederic, in Maryland, (where he is guarding the British prisoners,) to Fort Pitt, as soon as he is relieved by a guard of militia. Upon his arrival you are to detach him with his own corps and as many as will make up one hundred, (should his companies be short of that number,) to take post at Kittaning, and immediately throw up a stockade Fort for the security of Convoys. When this is accomplished, a small Garrison is to be left there, and the remainder are to proceed to Venango, and establish another post of the same kind for the same purpose. The party to go provided with proper tools from Fort Pitt, and Colo. Rawlings is to be directed to make choice of good pieces of ground, and by all means to use every precaution against a surprise at either of his posts.
Colo. Gibson is to be ordered to hold himself ready to join you with his force, when matters are ripe for execution. But he is to keep his intended removal from Tuscarora a profound secret; and, when he receives his orders to march, let it be as sudden as possible. Because whenever the evacuation of the post at Tuscarora takes place it will plainly discover that our designs are up the River—and not agst. Detroit by that Route.
(1) Perhaps it may be better to direct him to be in the most perfect readiness to march with his whole Garrison & stores, without acquainting him with the design lest it should transpire too soon—but in this matter your own judgment & knowledge of Gibson’s prudence must govern.
(2) I cannot with precision say what posts along the Ohio must be kept up for quieting the fears of the people.—This must be left to your own judgment. From what I have heard Fort McIntosh is a better and more extensive cover than Fort Pitt—to the frontiers of Pennsylvania and Virginia and attended with advantages in intercepting Indian parties which the other has not; but which of the two to prefer, if both cannot be held, is left to you to determine. The Fort at Wheeling I am told is essential, could we spare men to garrison it. But I fear an attempt to leave too many posts occupied in your Rear, would weaken the Body with which you move up the River so much, that it would not answer the purposes expected from it. I can only therefore give you this general direction, to leave no more posts than are absolutely necessary to secure the communication, and no more men at them than are absolutely necessary to defend them. Hasten the water-Craft by all means, that you may not have to wait for them, when other matters are ready. The Garrisons of these small posts should consist of the Independent Companies that your larger Corps may be kept as compact and compleat as possible. Should the Companies not be fully sufficient for the purpose you are to call in Militia to their assistance. But let not this be done if it can be avoided, should the emergency of the case require it, let their number be as small as possible.
Neither the Indians nor any other persons are to know your destination, until your movement points out the probable quarter. Engage at a proper season as many warriors as you can to accompany you, and at all events procure good Guides, who know the Way from the head of the navigation of Allegany to the nearest Indian Towns and to Niagara. After you have moved, let it remain a secret, as long as possible, to which you are going. You are to inform me with precision, and by a careful express, when you will be ready to begin your movement from Fort Pitt, when you can be at Kittaning, when at Venango, when at the head of the navigation, how far it is from thence to the nearest Indian Towns, and when you can reach them. In making your estimate of the times, you are to calculate upon moving as light as possible, and with only a few pieces of the lightest artillery. These are necessary for me to know, with as much accuracy as possible, that the plan of coöperation, upon which much depends, may be perfectly formed.
I would wish you to pacify and cultivate the friendship of the Western Indians, by all the means in your power. When you are ready to move, and your probable destination can be no longer concealed, contrive ways to inform them, that you are going to meet a large force, to fall upon and destroy the whole Country of the Six Nations; and that, if they do in the mean time give the least disturbance to the frontiers, that whole force will be turned against them; and that we will never rest, till we have cut them off from the face of the Earth. There is one point upon which I will take the liberty of dropping you a caution, though perhaps it may already have struck you; which is, the policy and propriety of not interesting yourself in the dispute subsisting between the States of Pennsylvania and Virginia, on account of their boundaries. I would wish you to recommend unanimity for the present to all parties; and, if they endeavor to make you an umpire in their affairs, I would have you waive it, as not coming properly before me in my military capacity. This impartial line of conduct will command the respect of both parties, whereas a contrary one would constantly produce discontent and ill-will in those disappointed by the decision. I am, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL SCHUYLER.
I have been duly favored with your obliging letters of the 1st and 8th instant with their enclosures, your answers to the several queries stated in mine of the 11th of February are very satisfactory, and so far as my information through other channels extends, it corresponds in most particulars with what you communicate.
If the main body to be employed on the expedition were to proceed by way of the Mohock River, the route and plan you have marked out would be preferable to any other. The reasons for which you recommend the principal operation to be carried on this way are weighty; but there are some considerations, which upon the whole, determine me to send the main body by way of the Susquehannah. This plan, I think will save both time and expence; give greater security to the troops and make the success more certain. I hope too it will not be less effectual. I agree with you that the Seneca settlements ought to be the capital object. The rout by the Mohock River appears rather circuitous for the purpose. It enters at one extremity very remote from the principal point of attack. The difficulty and expence of conveying the troops and the necessary supplies would be increased not only from the greater extent to be traversed, but from the greater diversity of land and water carriage. I find also from a comparison of intelligence that the navigation of the Mohock river and through Wood Creek would be more slow and troublesome than up the Susquehanna. A greater number of posts of communication must be established which would diminish the operating force so much the more. But the chief objection I have to the measure is, that I should be under no small apprehension from the enemy’s force in Canada.
It is true we are endeavoring by demonstrations of an expedition into that province to induce them to keep their force at home—and with a view to this, as well as the jealousies which have been given on the side of Lake Champlain—I have been trying to create others by the way of Co’os; Though I hope these expedients will have the effect intended; yet we cannot sufficiently rely upon their success. The enemy’s intelligence of our resources and movements may be such as to apprize them of our real design. In that case should they send a detachment towards Oswego, to co-operate with the indians and their garrisons on the lakes; we should be in a very delicate situation. By uniting to oppose our progress in the first instance, we should have to encounter a force perhaps too formidable; or which is more to be dreaded, should they suffer us to proceed till we had passed the Onondaga River and then fall down into our rear, we should be in danger of being intercepted, our communication cut off no convoys, if we stood in need of them could follow. If we should turn back to dislodge the party in our rear it would occasion delay and so soon as we resumed our March forward they would resume their position, and oblige us either to repeat the same retrogradation or advance and risk the consequences. To advance we ought to calculate upon the possibility of a defeat and a defeat under these circumstances would be ruinous. The route by Susquehanna appears to be more direct—more easy and expeditious and much more secure. Very little is to be apprehended for our retreat in any event that may happen. The result of my inquiries in several ways is—that there is a very practicable navigation for boats of 8 or ten tons burthen all the way from Sunbury to Tioga about 140 miles, (interrupted with only three or four rapids) and for smaller boats as far as Shemung about 18 miles beyond Tioga on the Cayuga branch and for canoes ten miles above that. That the distance from Shemung to the heart of the Seneca settlements is not above 60 or 70 miles through an open and travelled country very susceptible of the passage of a body of troops, with Artillery and Stores. In order to be certain of the navigation of the river at all times, in its driest and shallowest state as well as in the season of its greatest depth, instead of boats of the size above mentioned, I have directed boats to be constructed of only three or four tons burthen. You will perceive that if my information be good you have misunderstood the navigation of Susquehannah an unfavorable opinion of which, seems to have concurred in determining your preference to the other route.
The supply of a body of troops going this way will be much easier and cheaper than by the Mohock River. The flour for their use will be as it were on the spot; whereas in the latter case from the scarcity on the North River and Eastwards all the flour consumed in the expedition must be replaced by a long land transportation, from the Southward. The additional expence and trouble of this would be very considerable; which though it is secondary is a powerful motive for sending the main body by the Susquehannah.
The plan I have in contemplation to divide the force into three parts, the principal one consistg. of about 300 to go by way of Susquehannah and penetrate immediately into the Seneca settlements—of about 1000 composed chiefly of the New York Regiments to enter the Indian country on the left by the Mohawk River and the other of about 500 to attack them on the right by way of the Ohio and Allegeni River—These three bodies to co-operate as punctually, as circumstances will permit. The main body and the one by Ohio, may easily form a junction in the Seneca country. The other must move with caution and secure itself as it goes. These different attacks will distract and terrify the Indians, and I hope facilitate our project. It is also to be hoped in their confusion, they may neglect in some places to remove the Old men women children and that these will fall into our hands. If they attempt to defend their country, we may gain some decisive advantage, if not we must content ourselves with distressing them as much as possible, by destroying their villages and this year’s crop. The places of rendezvous for the different corps will be Wyoming—the Mohawk River (perhaps the German flats) & Pittsburgh—
With respect to an attempt to surprise the Onondaga and Cayuga tribes in the way you first suggested, it would hardly suit—with the force to be employed according to the present plan in that quarter—and though a thing of this kind would be very desireable I should be cautious of risking much upon it—or making arrangements for it that would be attended with extra expence or trouble. Unless by small parties and in a sudden way, I should esteem it difficult to effect a surprise upon an enemy so vigilant and desultory as the Indians. But I very much approve your project for surprising the Onondaga capital village by a party from Fort Schuyler. It has a good prospect of success will be of great importance if it does succeed and not much is put to the hazard—in the attempt. I shall be obliged to you to take measures accordingly.
Every days experience exhibits our finances in a more unpromising light and inforces the necessity of economy in our public expenditures. The enormous amount of preparations that cannot be avoided discourages me from adding to it by any scheme the execution of which is contingent and apparently remote. Though much attached to the idea of extending our preparations for operating to the Northward, beyond the limits of our immediate views, I find it indispensible to contract them to this standard. I must therefore with great reluctance, request that no expence may be in future incurred not essential to the execution of the present plan. On a supposition, that the providing plank for the 20 Gun ship will be far advanced before this comes to hand—I shall make this an exception & let it be completed.
I shall be much obliged to you to endeavor to ascertain the distance from Fort Schuyler, or any other given point on the Mohawk River to the Chenissio—Conasadago—Onondago and other castles—also the distance by land from the German flats to those castles & to Niagara—whether there be any practicable route—what sort of an one it is—and the nature of the country, through which it passes.
With the truest &c.
P.S. I fully agree with you in the necessity of supplying the friendly Indians with provisions, and wish it to be done unless contradicted by Congress. In consequence of your information that a body of Indians were collecting as if with design to fall upon the Northern frontier, as I had it not in my power to spare a further reinforcement of troops—I transmitted copies of the letters to Governor Clinton, that he might endeavor to afford such assistance as he thought practicable & necessary.
TO GEORGE MASON.
Middlebrook, 27 March, 1779.
* * * * * *
Though it is not in my power to devote much time to a private corrispondence owing to the multiplicity of public Letters & other business I have to read, write, & transact; yet, I can with great truth assure you that it would afford me very singular pleasure to be favored at all times with your sentiments in a leizure hour upon public matters of general concernment, as well as those which more immediately respect your own State, if proper conveyances would render prudent a free communication. I am particularly desirous of it at this time because I view things very differently, I fear, from what the people in general do, who seem to think the contest is at an end, & to make money, and get places the only things now remaining to do. I have seen without despondency even for a momt.—the hours which America have stiled her gloomy ones, but I have beheld no day since the commencement of hostilities that I have thought her liberties in such eminent danger as at present.
Friends and Foes seem now to combine to pull down the goodly fabric we have hitherto been raising at the expense of so much time, blood, & treasure—& unless the bodies politic will exert themselves to bring things back to first principles—correct abuses—& punish our internal Foes inevitable ruin must follow,—indeed we seem to be verging so fast to destruction that I am filled with sensations to which I have been a stranger till within these three months.
Our Enemy, behold with exultation & joy, how effectually we labor for their benefit; and from being in a state of absolute despair, and on the point of evacuating America, are now on tiptoe—nothing therefore, in my judgement, can save us but a total reformation in our own conduct or some decisive turn to affairs in Europe. The former alas! to our shame be it spoken! is less likely to happen than the latter; as it is more consistent with the views of the speculators—various tribes of money makers & stock jobbers of all denominations to continue the War for their own private emolument without considering that their avarice & thirst for gain must plunge every thing, including themselves in one common ruin.
Were I to endulge my present feelings, & give a loose to that freedom of expression which my unreserved friendship for you would prompt me to, I should say a great deal on this subject.
But letters are liable to so many accidents, & the sentiments of men in office sought after by the enemy with so much avidity, & besides, conveying useful knowledge (if they get into their hands) for the superstructure of their plans, is often perverted to the wors[t] of purposes that I shall be somewhat reserved notwithstanding this letter goes by a private hand to Mount Vernon.—I cannot refrain lamenting, however, 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 or profit, till the great National Interest is fixed upon a solid basis.—To me, it appears no unjust simile to compare the affairs of this great Continent to the mechanism of a clock, each state representing some one or other of the smaller parts of it which they are endeavoring to put in fine order without considering how useless & unavailing their labor is unless the great Wheel, or Spring which is to set the whole in motion is also well attended to—& kept in good order—I allude to no particular state—nor do I mean to cast reflections upon any of them—nor ought I, it may be said to do so upon their representatives; but, as it is a fact too notorious to be concealed that C—is rent by Party—that much business of a trifling nature & personal concernment withdraw their attention from matters of great national moment at this critical period.—When it is also known that idleness & dissipation take place of close attention & application, a man who wishes well to the liberties of his Country and desires to see its rights established cannot avoid crying out where are our men of abilities? Why do they not come forth to save their Country? let this voice my dear Sir call upon you—Jefferson & others—do not from a mistaken opinion that we are about to set down under our own vine, & our own fig tree, let our hitherto noble struggle end in ignom’y—believe me when I tell you there is danger of it—I have pretty good reasons for thinking that Administration a little while ago had resolved to give the matter up, and negotiate a peace with us upon almost any terms; but I shall be much mistaken if they do not now from the present state of our currency dissentions & other circumstances push matters to the utmost extremity—nothing I am sure will prevent it but the interposition of Spain, & their disappointed hope from Russia.
I thank you most cordially for your kind offer of rendering me services. I shall without reserve, as heretofore, call upon you whenever instances occur that may require it, being with the sincerest regard, &c.
TO PRESIDENT REED.
Middlebrook, March 28th, 1779.
The enemy have some enterprise in view. New London, on account of the Frigates in the river, and because Boats have been preparing at the East end of Long Island, and Troops for some time past drawing thitherward, is supposed to be the object. Probably it is so; but, as the Season is now approaching when either negotiation or vigorous exertions must take place of inactivity, and as General Clinton doubtless will, in the latter case, and in pursuance of the predatory plan talked of by the minority and not disavowed by the administration, attempt something that will give eclat to his arms, I should not be much surprised if some vigorous effort was used against Annapolis, Baltimore, or even Philadelphia itself.1 I do not mean with a view to hold either of these places, but to plunder or destroy them. General Clinton, (under pretence of visiting the Troops,) is now at the East end of long Island with Sir Willm. Erskine. Admiral Gambier is gone to Rhode Island; and one of my most intelligent correspondents informs me, that it is surmised that the Troops at that place are to be withdrawn. Transports with provisions have gone from New York to Rhode Island, and a number of privateers have been detained from their cruises and sent along with them.2
Upon the whole, I cannot help suspecting, that the preparations have been too long making, too formidable, and too open, for any enterprise against New London, for wch. place the fears of the people are up, and, as we cannot tell where it may fall, we should, as far as human prudence and the means in our hands will enable us, be guarded at all points. The sole purpose, therefore, of this Letter, is to suggest for your consideration the expediency of adopting, in time some general plan (without taking notice of the present suggestion, thereby creating probably unnecessary fears) for giving an alarm to the militia of the Country, and for fixing on places of rendezvous for them, that in cases of sudden emergency they may quickly assemble, free from tumult or disorder; for be assured, if any thing is attempted against the City of Philadelphia, the preparations for it will be held under the darkest veil, and the movement, when the plan is ripe for execution, will be rapid. As my motive to this suggestion is good, I will offer no apology for the freedom, but assure you that I am, dear Sir, your most obedient servant.
TO JAMES WARREN, IN MASSACHUSETTS.
Middlebrook, 31 March, 1779.
I beseech you not to ascribe my delay in answering your obliging favor of the 16th of Decr. to disrespect, or want of inclination to continue a correspondence in which I have always taken pleasure & thought myself honored.
Your Letter came to my hands in Philadelphia, where I attended, at the request of Congress, to settle some important matters respecting the army & its future operations, and where I was detained until some time in Feby. During that period my time was so much occupied by the immediate & pressing business which carried me down, that I could attend to little else; & upon my return to camp I found the ordinary business of the army had run so much behindhand, that, together with the arrangements I had to carry into execution, no leizure was left me to indulge myself sooner in making the acknowledgment I am now about to do, of the pleasure I felt at finding that I still enjoyed a share of your confidence and esteem, and now & then am to be informed of it by letter. Believe me, Sir, when I add, that this proof of your holding me in remembrance is most acceptable and pleasing.
Our conflict is not likely to cease so soon as every good man would wish. The measure of iniquity is not yet filled; and, unless we can return a little more to first principles, and act a little more upon patriotic grounds, I do not know when it will, or what may be the issue of the contest. Speculation, Peculation, Engrossing, forestalling, with all their concomitants, afford too many melancholy proofs of the decay of public virtue, and too glaring instances of its being the interest and desire of too many, who would wish to be thought friends, to continue the war. Nothing, I am convinced, but the depreciation of our currency, proceeding in a great measure from the foregoing causes, aided by stockjobbing and party dissensions, has fed the hopes of the Enemy and kept the B. arms in America to this day. They do not scruple to declare this themselves, and add, that we shall be our own conquerors. Cannot our common country, Ama., possess virtue enough to disappoint them? Is the paltry consideration of a little dirty pelf to individuals to be placed in competition with the essential rights and liberties of the present generation, and of millions yet unborn? Shall a few designing men, for their own aggrandizement, & to gratify their own avarice, overset the goodly fabric we have been rearing at the expense of so much time, blood, & treasure? And shall we at last become the victims of our own abominable lust of gain? Forbid it Heaven! Forbid it all & every State in the Union! by enacting & enforcing efficacious laws for checking the growth of these monstrous evils, & restoring matters in some degree to the pristine state they were in at the commencement of the war!
Our cause is noble. It is the cause of mankind, and the danger to it is to be apprehended from ourselves. Shall we slumber and sleep, then, while we should be punishing those miscreants, who have brot. these troubles upon us, & who are aimg. to continue us in them; while we should be striving to fill our battalions, & devising ways and means to appreciate the currency, on the credit of wch. every thing depends? I hope not. Let vigorous measures be adopted; not to limit the prices of articles, for this I believe is inconsistent with the very nature of things, and impracticable in itself; but to punish speculators, forestallers, & extortioners, and above all to sink the money by heavy taxes, to promote public & private economy, Encourage manufactures &c. Measures of this sort, gone heartily into by the several States, would strike at once at the root of all our evils, & give the coup de grace to British hope of subjugating this continent, either by their arms or their arts. The first, as I have before observed, they acknowledge is unequal to the task; the latter I am sure will be so, if we are not lost to every thing that is good & virtuous.
A little time now must unfold in some degree the enemy’s designs. Whether the state of affairs in Europe will permit them to augment their army with more than recruits for the Regiments now on the continent, and therewith make an active and vigorous campaign; or whether, with their Florida & Canadian force, they will aid & abet the Indians in ravaging our western Frontier, while their shipg. wh. detachments, harass, (and if they mean to prosecute the predatory war, threatened by the administration through their commissioners) burn, & destroy our seacoast; or whether, contrary to expectation, they should be more disposed to negotiate than to either, is more than I can determine. The latter will depend very much upon their apprehensions from the court of Spain, & expectations of foreign aid & powerful alliances. At present we seem to be in a chaos. But this cannot last long, as I suppose the ultimate determination of the British court will be developed at the meeting of Parliament after the holydays. Mrs. Washington joins me in cordial wishes & best respects to Mrs. Warren. She would have done herself the pleasure of writing, but the present conveyance was sudden. I am, with sincere esteem and regard, dear Sir, &c.
TO PRESIDENT REED.
Middlebrook, April 8th, 1779.
Your favor without a date, acknowledging the receipt of my letters of the 28th, & 9th ulto came to hand a day or two ago.
Colo. Patterson (as he is called) was a stranger even in name to me, till he came here introduced by Colo. Cox as a person capable of giving the best information of the Indian Country, between the Susquehannah and Niagara of any man that was to be met with; and as one who had it more in his power than any other to obtain such intelligence of the situation, numbers and designs of the enemy in these regions as I wanted to enable me to form the Expedition against them—In this light, & as the Brother-in-law of Genl. Potter who is known to be a zealous friend to America, I viewed & imployed Colo. Patterson for the above purposes; concealing as much as the nature of the case would admit my real design.—If I have been deceived in the Man, Colo Cox is the author of the deception and is highly culpable, because he represented him to me as a person he was well acquainted with,—The Troops from Minisink were to begin their March for Wioming last Monday—The bad weather all the Month of March and an accident to one of my Letters to Genl. Hand occasioned a delay of some days. Orders also went (before the receipt of your Letter) to Genl. McDougall to put the remains of Patten’s & Malcolm’s Regiments in motion for the same quarter—and the Board of War, some time since, has been applied to for a relief to Rawling’s Corps that it might reinforce Brodhead for the purpose mentioned to you when at Camp, but what they have done in the matter is unknown to me—I shall be very glad to know from time to time what progress is made in compleating the five independent Companies; and let me beseech you my dear Sir while I am upon the subject of recruiting to give the most pointed orders to those who are engaged in this Service, for your Battalions, to take no Deserters.—They weaken instead of strengthen the Regiments, and not only rob the public of the bounty money, arms, accoutrements and cloaths which they receive, but poison the minds of other Soldiers and carry many away with them to the enemy.—In Genl. Potter’s letter (now returned) the propriety of offering Land as an encouragement to Men to enlist in the above Companies, is suggested for your consideration—I have long been of opinion founded in observation that if the State bounties are continually increased for every short & temperary Service & enlistment, that the price of Men another year will be far above our purchase; & a final end will be put to recruiting;—the consequences of which, under present appearances, are well worthy of consideration.
To hear that all party disputes had subsided & that harmony (not only between Congress & the States but between the discordant parts of the State) was restored, wd. give me very singular pleasure.—If party matters were at an end, & some happy expedient hit upon to check the further depreciation of our money, we should soon be left to the enjoyment of that Peace and happiness which every good man must wish for & none but the viciated & abandoned tribe of speculators, &c would be injured by.1
If propositions have not been made to Congress of the Court of G. Britain for negotiating a Peace on the terms which have been held out to the Commissioners upon what ground is the resolutions you speak of founded? They surely do not mean to be the movers of a Negotiation, before they know the terms that will be offered, or which can certainly be obtained?—In a word the whole matter (to me) is a mistery.—I am, &c.
April 9th. P. S.—Since writing the foregoing I have spoke to Genl. Greene concerning Patterson—He says that Cox is not, nor was not unacquainted with the suspicions harbored of him—that in ye early part of the War he got disgusted by some disappointment, withdrew from Public Service—& has conducted himself in such a manner as to be suspected of favoring the back Settlers who have joined the Enemy—but nevertheless he will answer for his fidelity & the due performance of what he has undertaken if impediments are not thrown in his way.—
I have accts of the marching of Pattens and Malcolm’s Regiments—& that the Troops from Minisink will be at Wioming this night if no accident happens to them.
TO JOHN JAY.
I have received your several favours of the 2d, 3d, & 28th of March, & 6th of April. I thank you for them all, but especially for the last, which I consider as a distinguishing mark of your confidence & friendship.1 Conscious that it is the aim of my actions to promote the public good, and that no part of my conduct is influenced by personal enmity to individuals, I cannot be insensible to the artifices employed by some men to prejudice me in the public esteem. The circumstance, of which you have obliged me with the communication, is among a number of other instances of the unfriendly views, which have governed a certain gentleman from a very early period. Some of these have been too notorious not to have come to your knowledge. Others, from the manner in which they have been conveyed to me, will probably never be known, except to a very few. But you have perhaps heard enough, and observed enough yourself, to make any further explanation from me unnecessary.
The desire, however, which is natural I should feel to preserve the good opinion of men of sense and virtue, conspiring with my wish to cultivate your friendship in particular, induces me to trouble you with a state of some facts, which will serve to place the present attack in its proper light. In doing this, I shall recapitulate and bring into one view a series of transactions, many of which have been known to you, but some of which may possibly have escaped your memory.
An opinion prevailing that the enemy were like shortly to evacuate these States, I was naturally led to turn my thoughts to a plan of operation against Canada, in case that event should take place. A winter campaign, before the enemy could have an opportunity of reinforcing and putting themselves in a more perfect state of defence, appeared to promise the most certain and speedy success, the route by Coos offered itself as most direct and practicable. In this I fully agreed with General Gates and some other gentlemen, whom I consulted on the occasion; and, on ye 12th of September last, I wrote to Congress accordingly, submitting it to them, whether it would be advisable to be laying up magazines, opening a road, and making other preparations for the undertaking. They approved the project, and authorized me to carry it into execution. I the more readily entered into it, from a consideration, that, if circumstances should not permit us to carry on the enterprise, the preparations towards it could easily be converted into another channel, and made serviceable to our operations elsewhere, without any material addition of expense to the continent. Because provisions, which would compose the principal part of the expense, were, at all events, to be purchased on Connecticut River, the only doubt being whether it should be used in an Expedition against Canada or transported to Boston, circumstances to determine this. With truth it may be added, that, excepting the articles of provisions and forage, which, as before observed, would have been bot. if no Expedn. by the way of Coos had been in contemplation, the “incredible expense,” mentioned by Genl. Gates in his letter of Mar. 4th, amounted to the purchase of a few pairs of Snow-Shoes and some leather for moccasins only. If any other expense has been incurred, it is unknown to me, must have been by his order, and he alone answerable for it.
In October following, Congress entered into arrangements with the Marquis de Lafayette for cooperating with the court of France, in an expedition against that country. In this scheme, one body of troops was to proceed from Coos and penetrate by way of the River St. Francis; others, forming a junction at Niagara, were to enter Canada by that route; and, while these were operating in this manner, a French fleet and a body of french troops were to go up the river St. Lawrence and take possession of Quebec. You are well acquainted with the opposition I gave to this plan, and my reasons at large for it. From what has since happened, they seem to have met the full approbation of Congress. The ideas I held up were principally these; that we ought not to enter in any contract with a foreign power, unless we were sure we should be able to fulfill our engagements; that it was uncertain whether the enemy would quit the States or not; and in case they did not, it would be impracticable to furnish the aids which we had stipulated; that, even if they should leave us, it was very doubtful whether our resources would be equal to the supplies required; that, therefore, it would be impolitic to hazard a contract of the kind, and better to remain at liberty to act as future conjunctures should point out. I recommended, nevertheless, as there were powerful reasons to hope the enemy might go away, that eventual preparations should be made to take advantage of it, to possess ourselves of Niagara and other posts in that quarter for the security of our frontiers, and to carry our views still farther, with respect to a conquest of Canada, if we should find ourselves able to prosecute such an enterprise. This, Congress, in a subsequent resolve, approved and directed to be done. It was not the least motive with me for recommending it, that operations of this nature seemed to be a very favorite object with that honorable body. The preparations on Hudson’s River were undertaken in consequence.
Upon a nearer view of our finances and resources, and when it came to be decided, that the enemy would continue for some time longer to hold the posts they were in possession of; in the course of the conferences with which I was honored by the committee of Congress in Philadelphia, I suggested my doubts of the propriety of continuing our northern preparations upon so extensive a plan, as was at first determined. The committee were of opinion with me, that the state of our currency and supplies in general would oblige us to act on the defensive next campaign, except so far as related to an expedition into the Indian country for chastising the savages and preventing their depredations on our back settlements; and that, though it would be extremely desirable to be prepared for pushing our operations further, yet our necessities, exacting a system of economy, forbade our launching into much extra expense for objects, which were remote and contingent. This determination having taken place, all our northern preparations were discontinued, except such as were necessary towards the intended Indian expedition.
Things were in this situation, when I received a letter from General Bayley, (living at Coos,) expressing some fears for the safety of the magazine at Coos, in consequence of which I directed the stores to be removed lower down the country. This I did to prevent a possibility of accident, though I did not apprehend they were in much danger. Some time afterwards, I received the letter No. 1, from General Gates, expressing similar fears; to which I returned him the answer of the 14th of February transmitted by him to Congress, No. 2. Knowing that preparations had been making at Albany, and unacquainted with their true design, he very precipitately concluded from a vague expression in that letter, that the intention of attacking Canada was still adhered to, but that I had changed the plan and was going by way of Lake Champlain or Ontario. Either of these routes he pronounces impracticable, and represents that by Coos as the only practicable one. He goes still further, and declares, that “in the present state of our army, and the actual situation of our magazines, to attempt a serious invasion of Canada, by whatever route, would prove unsuccessful, unless the fleet of our allies should at the same time coöperate with us by sailing up the river St. Lawrence.” Though I differ with him as to the impracticability of both the other routes, I venture to go a step beyond him respecting our ability to invade Canada, & am convinced, that, in our present circumstances, and with the enemy in front, we cannot undertake a serious invasion of that country at all, even with the aid of an allied fleet. You will perceive, Sir, that I have uniformly made the departure of the enemy from these States an essential condition to the invasion of Canada; and that General Gates has entirely mistaken my intentions. Hoping that I had embarked in a scheme, which our situation would not justify, he eagerly seizes the opportunity of exposing my supposed errors to Congress; and, in the excess of his intemperate zeal to injure me, exhibits himself in a point of view, from which I imagine he will derive little credit. The decency of the terms in which he undertakes to arraign my conduct, both to myself and to Congress, and the propriety of the hasty appeal he has made, will, I believe, appear at least questionable to every man of sense and delicacy.
The last paragraph of the extract, with which you favor me, is a pretty remarkable one. I shall make no comments further, than as it implies a charge of neglect on my part, in not writing to him but once since December. From the beginning of last campaign to the middle of December, about seven months, I have copies of near fifty letters to him, and about forty originals from him. I think it will be acknowledged, that the correspondence was frequent enough during that period; and, if it has not continued in the same proportion since, the only reason was, that the season of the year, the troops being in Winter-quarters, and Genl. G’s situation unfruitful of events and unproductive of any military arrangements between us, afforded very little matter for epistolary intercourse; and I flatter myself it will be readily believed, that I am sufficiently occupied with the necessary business of my station, and have no need of increasing it by multiplying letters without an object. If you were to persue, my Dear Sir, the letters which have passed between General Gates and myself for a long time back, you would be sensible that I have no great temptation to court his correspondence, when the transacting of public business does not require it. An air of design, a want of candor in many instances, and even of politeness, give no very inviting complexion to the correspondence on his part. As a specimen of this, I send you a few letters and extracts, which, at your leisure, I should be glad that you would cast your eye upon.
Last fall, it was for some time strongly suspected that the enemy would transport the whole or the greater part of their force Eastward, and combine one great land and sea operation against the french fleet in Boston harbour. On this supposition, as I should go in person to Boston, the command next in importance was the posts on the North River. This properly would devolve on General Gates; but, from motives of peculiar scrupulousness, as there had been a difference between us, I thought it best to know whether it was agreeable to him, before I directed his continuance. By way of compliment, I wrote him a letter, containing No. 3, expecting a cordial answer and cheerful acceptance. I received the evasive and unsatisfactory reply,1 No. 4. A few days after this, upon another occasion, I wrote him the letter, No. 5, to which I received the extraordinary answer, No. 6, which was passed over in silence.
The plan of operations for the campaign being determined, a commanding officer was to be appointed for the Indian expedition. This command, according to all present appearances, will probably be of the second if not of the first importance for the campaign. The officer conducting it has a flattering prospect of acquiring more credit, than can be expected by any other this year; and he has the best reason to hope for success. General Lee, from his situation, was out of the question; General Schuyler (who, by the way, would have been most agreeable to me) was so uncertain of continuing in the army, that I could not appoint him; General Putnam I need not mention. I therefore made the offer of it, for the appointmt. could no longer be delayed, to General Gates, who was next in seniority, though, perhaps I might have avoided it, if I had been so disposed, from his being in a command by the special appointment of Congress. My letter to him on the occasion, you will find in No. 7, I believe you will think was conceived in very candid and polite terms, and that it merited a different answer from the one given to it,1 No. 8.
I discovered very early in the war symptoms of coldness & constraint in General Gates’ behavior to me. These increased as he rose into greater consequence; but we did not come to a direct breach, till the beginning of last year. This was occasioned by a correspondence, which I thought rather made free with me, between Generals Gates and Conway, which accidentally came to my knowledge. The particulars of this affair you will find delineated in the packet herewith, endorsed “Papers respecting General Conway.” Besides the evidence, contained in them, of the genuineness of the offensive correspondence, I have other proofs still more convincing, which, having been given me in a confidential way, I am not at liberty to impart.
After this affair subsided, I made a point of treating Gen. Gates with all the attention and cordiality in my power, as well from a sincere desire of harmony, as from an unwillingness to give any cause of triumph to our enemies, from an appearance of dissension among ourselves. I can appeal to the world, and to the whole army, whether I have not cautiously avoided every word or hint, that could tend to disparage Gen. Gates in any way. I am sorry his conduct to me has not been equally generous, and that he is continually giving me fresh proofs of malevolence and opposition. It will not be doing him injustice to say, that, besides the little, underhand intrigues which he is frequently practising, there has hardly been any great military question, in which his advice has been asked, that it has not been given in an equivocal and designing manner, apparently calculated to afford him an oppotunity of censuring me, on the failure of whatever measures might be adopted.
When I find that this gentleman does not scruple to take the most unfair advantages of me, I am under a necessity of explaining his conduct to justify my own. This, and the perfect confidence I have in you, have occasioned me to trouble you with so free a communication of the state of things between us. I shall still be as passive as a regard to my own character will permit. I am, however, uneasy, as General G. has endeavored to impress Congress with an unfavorable idea of me; and, as I only know this in a private, confidential way, that I cannot take any step to remove the impression, if it should be made.
I am aware, Sir, of the delicacy of your situation; and I mean this letter only for your own private information. You will, therefore, not allow yourself to be embarrassed by its contents, but with respect to me pass it over in silence. With the truest esteem and personal regard, I am, dear Sir, &c.1
P. S. General Gates in his letter of the 30th of Septr. disapproves the divided state of our army—what he says being in general terms might seem plausible enough, but by no means applies to the case in hand. The Army was then in four divisions—Three Brigades of the right wing & one from the second line under General Putnam had been stationed in the Highlands in conjunction with the garrison of West Point for the immediate defence of the passes there—The remaining two brigades of that wing, under Baron de Kalb was incamped on Fish Kill plains, 7 or 8 miles from the town within less than a days march of the fort.—At Fredericksburgh was three brigades of the second line under Lord Stirling about two days march from the fort—General Gates with the left wing of five brigades was at Danbury abt. 14 miles from Fredericksburgh. The manœuvring on our flanks of which General Gates speaks by way of the North River or the sound must have had for object either the Highland passes, or the army itself.—Had they attempted those passes, the force immediately on the spot & close in its vicinity was sufficient from the nature of the ground to withstand their whole force; and the rest of the army from the time necessarily exhausted in military operations would in all probability have been up in time to succour that part—Without gaining those passes they could not get at the army at all on the right; and in doing it, if they could have effected it, the army would have had abundant time to collect & defend itself.—To advance by land in our front would have been chimerical; they would have had a much greater distance to approach us, than the whole distance from one extremity of our force to the other; and we should have had all the leisure we could desire to assemble at any point we thought proper. Had they attempted our left flank at Danbury by way of the sound, we might either if we had judged it expedient have brought up the other corps to support the one there, or, if it found itself pressed for want of time, it had only to fall back upon Fredericksburgh, and there our whole force would have concentred with ease to oppose the enemy to the greatest advantage. The truth was, there was not at that time the least probability they should attempt an army which had been the whole summer inviting them out of their stronghold—nor did I think there was much, they would molest the forts;—yet it would certainly have been imprudent to have risked the security of either.—When the enemy was in the Jerseys the change then made in the disposition gave still greater security to the different objects for which we had to provide, by drawing a greater force to the point threatened. The intention of the disposition I have described was to push a part of our force as far Eastward as possible for the aid and protection of the French fleet, in case the enemy had directed their force against that, at the same time, I did not choose to lose sight of the North river, and therefore kept a sufficient force near enough to secure it. The conciliating these two objects produced that division of our army of which General Gates complains. No man however was more vehement in supposing the French fleet would be the object of the enemy’s operations than himself; and this he so emphatically inculcated in several of his letters, that I thought it necessary in answer to one of the 6th of October, to write him as contained in mine of the 7th, both which are also herewith No. 9 & 10.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL SCHUYLER.
I am to thank you for your two favors of the 3d and 8th with their inclosures—I am happy to find, that you agree with me in preferring the route by Susquehannah.
In prosecuting the consideration of the Indian expedition and upon a still nearer view of our force and supplies, a doubt arises respecting the best manner of employing the troops now on the Northern frontier—whether to let them penetrate on the left flank of the enemy by way of the Mohock River or to make them form a junction, by way of Otsego lake with the main body at Tioga, Owegy or some other convenient place on the upper part of the Susquehannah.
The arguments for operating on the first plan are these: The troops going different ways will distract and perplex the enemy and keep awake different jealousies, and the body by the Mohock River will create an advantageous diversion in favor of the main body. It will also give cover and protection to the Northwestern frontiers, against which, if the enemy find they are not able to oppose the advances of our main body, they may think it advisable to direct their force to retaliate the damage we are doing to their settlements. By advancing too, in different directions, into the Indian country, the business of destroying their settlements can be carried on with more expedition and efficacy.
On the other hand, it may be said, that by dividing our force we diminish the confidence with which our operations might otherwise be carried on, and expose either party to the greater danger of a defeat from the collective force of the enemy—that the body moving by the Mohock River must either move with so much caution as to afford less effectual aid to the main body, or by operating with greater boldness and celerity, must expose itself immediately to the hazard of being cut off—and that the distance the two bodies will be from each other and the obstacles to a free communication of intelligence will make it infinitely difficult so to regulate their movements, as to produce a proper co-operation which is essential to make the one useful to the other—The scarcity of provisions in the Northern district is an additional reason for carrying the expedition wholly by way of Susquehannah, where the necessary supplies can be most easily furnished; the general expence of acting in one body will be less than that of acting in two different quarters.
A further reason also may be this—I shall not be able, without risking the main army in a manner that could not be justified, to spare hence a sufficient number of Continental troops to compose the main body intirely—I have therefore called upon the State of Pennsylvania for an aid of 600 militia to be employed on the expedition. If she should not be able to furnish them, either the main body must be weaker than could be wished, or it must be strengthened by the addition of the troops from the northward.
By the enclosed letter to General Clinton left open for your perusal, you will perceive that I have directed him to have the several corps mentioned therein held in readiness to assemble by the 12th of May at Conajoharie—with a sufficient number of batteaus and carriages for their transportation also to have a large supply of provisions laid up at Fort Schuyler, either for the use of these troops, should they move by the Mohock River or should they go the other way, for the more effectual support of the garrison of Fort Schuyler—You will see what further directions, I have given him, and that I have referred him to you for advice and assistance. The rendezvous at Conajoharie will point both ways.
I shall be much obliged to you for your opinion on the two plans I have suggested—I really find myself in a good deal of hesitation which to prefer.
You will observe that agreeable to your ideas for the security of the Northern frontier I have applied to Governor Clinton for a body of militia, to relieve the detachments on Hudsons River.
I have no map of the kind you mention, and shall thank you for the one you so obligingly offer.
Permit me to assure you, my Dear Sir, that I extremely regret your continuance in the Army still remains undecided. It will afford me the truest pleasure if your affair should ultimately take such a turn as will enable me to avail myself of your assistance and the public to derive the benefit of your future services in the field. With the greatest esteem &c.1
TO COLONEL DANIEL BRODHEAD.
Since my last letter, and upon a further consideration of the subject, I have relinquished the idea of attempting a co-operation between the troops at Fort Pitt and the bodies moving from other quarters against the Six Nations. The difficulty of providing supplies in time, a want of satisfactory information of the route and nature of the country up the Alleghany River, & between that & the Indian Settlemts., and consequently the uncertainty of being able to cooperate to advantage, and the hazard which the smaller party might run, for want of a co-operation, are principal motives for declining of it. The danger to which the frontier would be exposed, by drawing off the troops from their present position, from the incursions of the more western tribes, is an additional though a less powerful reason. The post at Tuscarora is therefore to be preserved, if under a full consideration of circumstances it is judged a post of importance, and can be maintained without running too great risk, and the troops in general under your command are disposed in the manner best calculated to cover and protect the country on a defensive plan.
As it is my wish, however, as soon as it may be in our power, to chastise the western savages by an expedition into their country, you will employ yourself in the mean time in making preparation, and forming competent magazines of Provisions for the purpose. If the expedition against the Six Nations is successfully ended, a part of the troops employed in this will probably be sent, in conjunction with those under you, to carry on another that way. You will endeavor to obtain in the mean time and transmit to me every kind of intelligence, which will be necessary to direct our operations, as precise, full, and authentic as possible. Among other points, you will try to ascertain the most favorable season for an enterprise against Detroit. The Frozen season, in the opinion of most, is the only one in which any capital stroke can be given, as the enemy can derive no benefit from their shipping, which must either be destroyed or fall into our hands. I am, &c.
TO BURWELL BASSETT.
I have just received your favor of the 30th Ulto. which is the only letter I recollect to have had from you these many months.—
Thinking that Jack Custis and his Manager Posey, would have more leizure on their hands than might fall to your lot, I desired the former sometime ago to ease you of as much trouble as he could on my acct; but to advise with, & consult you in whatever he did relative to my business—As he has left that part of the country I must request the favor of you to give Mr. Posey such directions as you think best for the completion of my affairs on York River.—The inclosed letter to him (left open for your perusal) is to this effect.—Davenport’s reason for not carrying the Tobo. to the Warehouse is truly excellent—and yet if one had a mind to be ill natured it might be asked why he would prize Tobacco that he thought unfit for market? He & Hill has, I believe, divided the profits of my Estate on the York River, tolerably well betwn. them for the devil of any thing do I get; but why need I dwell upon or trouble myself much about trifles, when to speak within bounds, ten thousand pounds will not compensate the losses I might have avoided by being at home, & attending a little to my own concerns. I am now receiving a shilling in the pound in discharge of Bonds which ought to have been paid me, & would have been realized before I left Virginia, but for my indulgences to the debtors.
We have nothing new or important in this quarter except the imbarkation of Nine Regiments at New York; but for what service they are destined is uncertain, though generally believed to be for Georgia.
It is most devoutly to be wished that the several States would adopt some vigorous measures for the purpose of giving credit to the paper currency and punishment of speculators, forestallers and others who are preying upon the vitals of this great Country and putting every thing to the utmost hazard. Alas! what is virtue come to—what a miserable change has four years produced in the temper & dispositions of the Sons of America! It really shocks me to think of it!
My best respects and good wishes are offered to all our friends & with sincere truth. I am, &c.
TO GOVERNOR LIVINGSTON.
Head Quarters,Middle Brook,
The enclosed is a letter to you in your official character. This you will be pleased to receive as private and confidential, to explain for your own satisfaction the reasons, which will oblige me to draw off Maxwell’s brigade from its present position, and will prevent my replacing them by other troops.
I have for a long time past been preparing for a decisive expedition against the Six Nations, which is now approaching fast to the period fixed for its execution. The short term of service for which the militia can be drawn out, by the laws of the different States, concurring with other obvious reasons, has determined me to employ on this service almost wholly Continental troops. The force of the savages, with the aid they may derive from the British garrisons on the lakes, makes it necessary, in order to give a sufficient probability of success to the undertaking, to detach so considerable a force from this quarter, as will leave the main army rather in a delicate situation. To provide for its security as far as possible, I shall be under a necessity of keeping it in a collected state; and this will of course oblige me to afford less cover to the country, than has been done for some time past, till our numbers can be rendered more respectable by the accession of the levies, which I hope will be raised in the different States towards completing their battalions. It is very disagreeable to me to throw any burthen upon the militia at this season of the year; but you will readily perceive, my dear Sir, that it is not in my power to avoid it.
You will also perceive, that I mean to withdraw the Monmouth Detachment. An additional motive for it is, that the enemy appear to have a number of active emissaries in that part of the country, who have been very successful in corrupting our men. An alarming spirit of mutiny and desertion has shown itself upon several occasions, and there is no saying how extensively the infection might spread. Sensible as you will be of the importance of keeping our true situation a profound secret to the enemy, I am persuaded you will make a cautious use of what I now communicate. With very great esteem and regard, I am, &c.
TO JOHN JAY.
Middlebrook, April 23d, 1779.
In one of your former letters you intimate, that a free communication of sentiments will not be displeasing to you. If, under this sanction, I should step beyond the line you would wish to draw, and suggest ideas, or ask questions, which are improper to be answered, you have only to pass them by in silence. I wish you to be convinced, that I do not desire to pry into measures, the knowledge of which is not necessary for my government as an executive officer, or the premature discovery of which might be prejudicial to the plans in contemplation.
After premising this, I beg leave to ask, what are the reasons for keeping the Continental frigates in port? If it is because hands cannot be obtained to man them, on the present encouragement, some other plan ought to be adopted to make them useful. Had not Congress better lend them to Commanders of known bravery and capacity for a limited term, at the expiration of which, the vessels, if not taken or lost, to revert to the States; they and their crews, in the mean time, enjoying the exclusive benefit of all captures they make, but acting, either singly or conjointly, under the direction of Congress? If this or a similar plan could be fallen upon, comprehending the whole number under some common head, a man of ability and authority, commissioned to act as commodore or admiral, I think great advantages would result from it. I am not sure but at this moment, by such a collection of the naval force we have, all the British armed vessels and transports in Georgia might be taken or destroyed, and their troops ruined. Upon the present system, our ships are not only very expensive and totally useless in port, but sometimes require a land force to protect them, as happened lately at New London.1
The rumor of the camp is, that Monsieur Gerard is about to return to France. Some speak confidently of its taking place. If this be a fact, the motives doubtless are powerful; as it will open a wide field for speculation, and give our enemies, whether with or without real cause, at least a handle for misrepresentation and triumph. Will Congress suffer the Bermudian vessels, which are said to have arrived in Delaware and Chesapeake Bay, to exchange their salt for flour, as is reported to be their intention? Will they not rather order them to depart immediately? Indulging them with a supply of provisions at this time will be injurious to us in two respects; it will deprive us of what we really stand in need of for ourselves, and will contribute to the support of that swarm of privateers, which resort to Bermudas, whence they infest our coast, and in a manner annihilate our trade. Besides these considerations, by withholding a supply, we throw many additional mouths upon the enemy’s magazine, and increase proportionably their distress. They will not and cannot let their people starve.
In the last place, though first in importance, I shall ask; is there any thing doing, or that can be done, to restore the credit of our currency? The depreciation of it is got to so alarming a point, that a wagon-load of money will scarcely purchase a wagon-load of provisions. I repeat, what I before observed, that I do not wish for your reply to more of these matters, than you can touch with strict propriety. Very truly, I am, &c.
TO PRESIDENT REED.
In a line of yesterday, as I did not think it proper to detain the express and delay the notice then given, till I could prepare a more explicit answer, I only briefly acknowledged the receipt of your two letters in Council of the 24th and 25th instant, to which I should have added that of the 26th. I am now to enter into a particular consideration of their contents, and to offer such explanations as may seem necessary to satisfy any doubts, which the honorable the Council may entertain on the subjects they respectively discuss.
The first relates wholly to the trial of Major-General Arnold. It is with concern I observe, that the Council appear to have misconceived the intention of the notification contained in my letter of the 20th, and to imagine that I had taken up the matter in a different point of view from that in which it is considered by Congress and by themselves, placing them in the light of a party in the prosecution.1 I flatter myself on a revisal of my letter, and of the resolve of Congress on which it is founded, this opinion will be readily retracted. The resolve, of which the enclosed is a copy, directs me to appoint “a Court-Martial for the trial of General Arnold, on the first, second, third, and fifth articles contained in the resolves of the Executive Council of Pennsylvania, and to notify them of it, with a request, that they would furnish the evidence to the court.” My letter was intended as a simple compliance with this order, and accordingly informs, that I had directed a court to be held at this camp, on the 1st of May next, for the trial of Major-General Arnold, on the 1. 2. 3 and 5th charges exhibited against him by the Council, requesting that they would be pleased to furnish the court at the appointed time with the proper evidence in support of the charges. The terms of this letter were such as, in common speaking, naturally presented themselves to express what was intended; because the charges there said to be exhibited by the Council, though in their present form they are instituted by the authority of Congress, originated in the resolves of council, of which they compose a part. But if they contain any ambiguity, or seem to imply more than those of the resolve, it is entirely to be ascribed to inadvertence and to a want of precision. It will easily be seen, that they could not be meant to convey the idea supposed, when it is recollected to be a fundamental maxim in our military trials, that the Judge-advocate prosecutes in the name and in behalf of The United States. But, as it is customary and reasonable, for those who exhibit informations, on which charges are founded, to produce or point out the witnesses necessary to support them, and enable public justice to operate; on this principle, I presume, Congress directed the notification, which has been made, and in the same spirit it was my intention to convey it. Further than this I had no idea of considering the Council as a party.
My motives for appointing the trial to take place at so short a period were these. The season is fast advancing, when we shall be under a necessity of taking the field; and as it is at most times very inconvenient (in the present state of the army impracticable) to spare a sufficient number of officers of high rank to compose a court at a distance from camp, and almost equally so to be carrying on a long and perhaps complicated trial in the midst of the operations of a campaign, it was my wish to bring it on at once, in hopes it might be concluded before they began. This was one reason, and to me a weighty one. Another was, that General Arnold had written to me in a very pressing manner, requesting the trial might commence as soon as possible. Uninformed of the particular circumstances, which might require delay, and considering it as my duty to accelerate the execution of justice, as well to the public, in case of real guilt, as to the individual, if innocent, I could have no objection to complying with his request. As the affair had been a considerable time in agitation, and I took it for granted the Council were acquainted with the order of Congress for appointing a court, I concluded the witnesses would be prepared, and that little time was necessary to collect them. The remoteness of the persons alluded to, I could not foresee. The affair of the two officers is entirely new to me; nor did it ever occur to my mind as probable, that the gentlemen, whom I conjecture to be hinted at, were intended to be summoned as witnesses on the side of the prosecution.1
I can assure the Council, with the greatest truth, that “substantial justice, not a mere formality, will undoubtedly be my object on this occasion.” I shall endeavor to act, and I wish to be considered, merely as a public executive officer, alike unbiassed by personal favor or resentment, and having no other end in view, than a faithful, ingenuous discharge of his duty. To obviate the remotest appearance of a different disposition, as well as to give the freest operation to truth, I have determined to defer the trial till the 1st of June, if it is thought the most material witnesses can be produced by that time, or till the 1st of July, if it is deemed necessary to await the arrival of the two officers from Carolina.
I am therefore to request of the Council information on this head, and that they will be pleased to point out, without delay, the persons who are to be called as witnesses in the affair. Where my authority will produce their attendance, it is my duty to exercise it; where I have no right to order, I can only request; but where any citizens of the State of Pensylvania are concerned, I doubt not the Council will employ its influence and authority to induce their appearance.
As to the officers, who may compose the Court-Martial, I trust the respectability of their characters will put their honor and impartiality out of the reach of suspicion. The expense of Witnesses, as the prosecution is in behalf of the United States, I take it for granted will be borne by them. Whether it will be possible for the Court to sit at or near Philadelphia depends upon circumstances, which cannot now be foreseen; at this time it could not by any means be done; if it can be done hereafter, without prejudice to the service, it will be very agreeable to me. The mode of conducting the trial will be strictly conformable to the orders of Congress, and to the sentiments I have now expressed; and I hope will not be thought in any degree to deviate from the respect due to the Council.
It gives me much pain to find, by your letter of the 26th that there is not a better prospect of aid from the Militia of your State in the intended Indian expedition. The drawing out the militia into service will no doubt interfere with the culture of the lands, and it were to be wished that it could be avoided. But the reduced state of our regiments, and the little apparent probability of augmenting them, will not allow me to prosecute a vigorous offensive operation to the Westward, wholly with Continental troops, without weakening the main army so much, as to put every thing to hazard this way. Influenced by considerations of this nature, I applied to your State for six hundred men; to New York for an indeterminate number, which has voted one thousand to be employed on the frontier also; and to New Jersey to replace, as far as was thought proper, the Continental troops now stationed on the coast, which will of necessity be withdrawn. If these applications have not the desired effect, bad as the consequences may be, I can only wish what I am unable to accomplish, and regret what it is not in my power to prevent.1
Notwithstanding the cautious terms in which the idea is conveyed, I beg leave to express my sensibility to the suggestion contained, not only in your letter of the 25th, but in a former one, of the —, that the frontier of Pensylvania is left unguarded and exposed, while that of some other States is covered and protected. Nor can I be less affected by the manner of the application for stationary troops, in case the proposed expedition should be laid aside; an event, which I could hardly have thought supposable. I am not conscious of the least partiality to one State, or neglect of another. If any one have cause to complain of the latter, it is Virginia, whose wide extended frontier has had no cover, but from troops more immediately beneficial to the Southwestern part of Pensylvania, which, besides this, has had its northern frontier covered by Spencer’s, Pulaski’s and Armand’s corps; its middle, by Hartley’s and some independent companies. That these troops were unequal to the task is not to be denied, nor that a greater number was sent at the close of last campaign to the western frontier of New York. But, for the first, the scantiness of our means is a sufficient reason. If the abilities and resources of the States cannot furnish a more competent force, assailable as we are on all sides, they will surely be more just than to expect from the army protection at every point. As to the last, those troops were not sent to be stationary. The repeated accounts transmitted by Congress, and received from other quarters, of the ravages actually committed, and the still greater threatened upon the western frontier of that State, occasioned so considerable a detachment, with a view to some offensive operations in the Winter. But these, through unforeseen impediments, we were obliged to lay aside. All these troops, except the garrison of fort Schuyler, are now destined for the Indian expedition, and are preparing for it.
I have been thus particular from a scrupulous desire to show, that no part of my conduct indicates a predilection to one State more than to another; but that, as far as the means in my hands will extend, I aim equally at the security and welfare of all. This is only to be obtained by vigorous exertions, and, in the present case, these must depend on the aid which the States most interested will give. I am &c.
The Council are pleased to intimate an application from Bermudas for a supply of flour. I am glad to find they do not seem disposed to comply with it—In my opinion it cannot be done without serious injury to the Service. Not only we appear to want all of that article which the Country can spare for our own use; but by withholding it from the enemy, we shall distress their privateers, which are the bane of our Commerce, not a little. This I have reason to believe from the best authority has already happened from the embargo’s which have been laid upon that article; and it would seem hardly politic to remove the difficulty. No doubt a great part of what might be furnished would be applied in this way—Besides these considerations, by withholding a supply, we throw many additional Mouths upon the enemys Magazines, and increase proportionably their distress—they will not—they cannot let their People starve. With great &c.
TO MONSIEUR GERARD, MINISTER PLENIPOTENTIARY FROM HIS MOST CHRISTIAN MAJESTY TO THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
Hd.-Qrs.,Middlebrook, May 1st, 1779.
As you have been pleased to honor me with a communication of His Excellency Count d’Estaing’s intention of returning to this continent, with the squadron under his command, and have desired to know my sentiments of the manner in which this event may be best improved for the interest of the common cause, and what can be done on the part of these States towards that end, I beg leave to offer the following as the definite result of my reflections on this subject, without recapitulating the particular reasons on which it is founded, and which have been already detailed in our several conferences.
I consider it as an essential basis to any extensive combined operations between the Squadron of His most Christian Majesty and the troops of these States, that the former shall possess, and have a good prospect of preserving, a clear superiority over the British naval force in America. In this case, if explicit assurances can be given, that His Excellency Count d’Estaing will proceed with all despatch directly from Martinique to New York, so as to arrive there in all probability before the British fleet under Admiral Byron; with the permission and approbation of Congress, I will engage to relinquish all the present projects of the campaign, and collect our whole force in this quarter, with all the aid which can be derived from the militia of the neighboring States, to coöperate with the Squadron of His Most Christian Majesty for the reduction of the enemy’s Fleet and army at New York, Rhode Island, and their dependencies.
I make this offer from a persuasion, that we should be able to collect a sufficient force to give a reasonable prospect of success to an enterprise decisive in its nature; and I request explicit assurances of a coöperation in the manner proposed, because without them I could not be justified in abandoning measures and engagements, in which the security of these States is deeply concerned, and because a failure would be attended with the most serious mischiefs. If these assurances cannot be given, the plan, which then appears to me most eligible, is this. That His Excellency Count d’Estaing proceed with his squadron immediately to Georgia, where, in conjunction with the American troops, there is every reason to believe he would with great facility capture and destroy the enemy’s fleet and army; which they could only elude in part, and that not without great difficulty, by a precipitate retreat to St. Augustine; and, even in this case, their vessels and stores would inevitably fall. That he next proceed directly from Georgia to New York, where, if he arrives before Admiral Byron, by entering the harbor expeditiously he will be sure of taking or destroying all their fleet in that port. The troops on Staten Island might also, I conceive, be intercepted and taken; the French troops in the fleet landing on one part, and a detachment from our army at another. Successes of this kind might open a new field of action, and lead to other important events. On the arrival of the fleet at the Hook, if a few frigates could be spared to be despatched to Rhode Island, to capture and destroy their vessels and obstruct their retreat, it would answer a very important end.
Either of these plans being pursued, if attended with important successes, so as to disembarrass these States of the whole or the principal part of the enemy’s force now within them, would put it in their power to coöperate with the forces of his most Christian Majesty in prosecuting such offensive enterprises against the enemy elsewhere, as shall be deemed advancive of the honor and interest of the allied powers; which cannot be expected while the immediate internal safety of the States is endangered by formidable fleets and armies, requiring the exertion of all their strength and resources in their own defence.
Having done myself the honor to submit to Your Excellency my ideas of the operations, which may be adopted with the greatest prospect of mutual advantage in the event you have been pleased to suggest, I doubt not, if either of the plans be approved wholly or in part, your answer will enable me to determine with precision the line of conduct, which ought to govern my operations relatively, to the objects they comprehend. I have the honor to be, with the most perfect respect, and the greatest personal esteem, &c.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
I was duly honored with your Excellency’s letter of the 28th of last month with its enclosure to which proper attention shall be paid.
I enclose you extracts from some letters lately received from General Schuyler, which are interesting in their nature, and require immediate direction. They are rather of a remote date, having been long in coming to hand. Congress will perceive that some of the hostile tribes of Indians, the Cayugas in particular, are desirous of making peace with us, and that it will be necessary to give our Commissioners instructions on this subject. I am inclined to think, in our present situation, it may be politic enough to make a partial peace with some of the tribes, though I should not wish to see it extended to the whole, even if their inclination, prompted by their fears, should lead them to solicit it; of which however there is no present appearance. A disposition to peace in these people can only be ascribed to an apprehension of danger, and would last no longer than till it was over, and an opportunity offered to resume their hostility with safety and success. This makes it necessary that we should endeavor to punish them severely for what has passed, and by an example of rigor intimidate them in future. But by confining this to those nations, who are most formidable and mischievous, the end will be answered, and, by detaching a part from the confederacy, we shall lessen the force we have to combat, add perhaps to our own, and make the stroke intended more easy and certain. This policy seems the more eligible, from the account given of the detachment, which is designed to be sent from Canada to the Westward. This is a measure I have all along dreaded, and, to prevent it if possible, have employed every artifice I could think of to excite jealousies of an invasion of Canada, and induce the Enemy there to keep their force at home. I have directed that effectual measures may be taken to ascertain the intelligence of the Western reinforcement. I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO GOVERNOR LIVINGSTON.
I have received the honor of your two letters both of the 1st instant.
I have generally been so happy as to agree with your Excellency in sentiment on public measures; but an instance now occurs, in which there happens to be a difference of opinion. I am extremely apprehensive that very disagreeable consequences may result from an increase of the standing pay of the militia. It would create an additional cause of discontent to the soldiery, who would naturally draw a comparison between their situation and that of the militia, and would think it very hard and unjust, that these should receive for temporary services a greater reward than they for permanent ones. This would occasion disgust and desertion, if not mutiny, among those already in the army, and would be a new discouragement to others from entering into it. The only remedy would be, to augment the pay of the soldiery to an equal sum, and the like must be done in the other States for their militia. The addition of Public expense would then be excessive; and the decay of our credit and currency proportional.
Your Excellency will agree with me, that every step should be carefully avoided, which has a tendency to dissatisfy the army, already too little pleased with its condition, and to weaken our military establishment already too feeble, and requiring every prop our circumstances will afford to keep it from falling into ruin. I should imagine the militia of the country are to be drawn out by the authority of the government, rather than by the pecuniary reward attached to their service; if the former is not sufficient, the latter, I apprehend, will be found ineffectual. To make the compensation given to the militia an inducement of material weight, it must be raised so high, as to bear a proportion to what they might obtain by their labor in their civil occupations; and in our case to do this, it must be raised so high as, I fear, to exceed the utmost stretch of our finances. But if it is thought indispensable to increase emoluments of service, in order to bring out the militia, it will be best to do it by a bounty rather than a fixed monthly pay. This would not be quite so palpable, nor strike the minds of the army with the same degree of force. But even this is a delicate point; and I have uniformly thought the large bounties, which have been given in the State enlistments and to militia, have been a very fertile source of evils and an almost irreparable injury to the service.
I have taken the liberty to communicate my sentiments on this subject with great freedom to your Excellency, as it appears to me a matter of extreme importance; and as I have the most entire confidence in your candor and friendship. If my objections do not appear valid, you will at least ascribe them to their proper motives. I shall, agreeable to your Excellency’s wish, continue the troops or the principal part of them at their present stations, as long as it can be done without interfering with the main object. * * * I have the honor, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Enclosed I have the honor to transmit your Excellency three New York papers of the 28th & 29th of April and 1st of May, which I think are interesting. The last contains extracts from Lord North’s speech at opening the budget, which seems to breathe a vigorous prosecution of the war. I have thought appearances for some time past wore this complexion. The English papers have frequently announced considerable reinforcements to the army in America, and have even specified the particular corps intended to be sent over. Nor can I see any sufficient reason to believe this will not be done. While the government can procure money, men will not be wanting; and while the nation is unengaged in a Continental war in Europe, and can maintain a balance of naval power, I do not perceive why it should not be able to spare men to continue the war in this country. At least the probability that they will be able to do it is great enough to demand very vigorous efforts on our part, to put the army upon a much more respectable footing than it now is. It does not really appear to me, that adequate exertions are making in the several States to complete their battalions. I hope this may not proceed in part from the expectation of peace having taken too deep root of late in this country.
I beg leave to submit it to Congress, whether a private, pointed address on this subject from them to the respective Legislatures may not be productive of a good purpose. I imagine it is unnecessary for me to particularize the situation of the army in the present reduced state of the regiments, after we shall have made the large detachment, which will be indispensable for the Western expedition, and considering that all the Virginia Levies are of necessity to be sent to the Southward.—I doubt not they are convinced it is such, as to demand the most serious exertions to make it better. With the greatest respect and esteem, I am, &c.1
TO BENJAMIN HARRISON.
My dear Sir;
Your favor of the 8th of Feby. arrived safe, by Colo. Mead, abt. the 10th of Apl.—It conveyed to me a two fold pleasure—1st to hear that you were ready to obey the call of your Country in a representation of it; and 2dly that you could do it with more ease and convenience to your affairs than formerly.—
If time would permit, and it was proper and safe by the Post to go into a free discussion of the political state of our affairs, I could and would write you a very long letter on this subject. But this kind of conveyance is too uncertain (while the enemy are pursuing with avidity every means in their power to come at the sentiments of men in office,) to hazard such opinions as I could wish to convey; I shall only remark therefore that no day passes without some proofs of the justness of the observations contained in my letter to you by Colo Mead, and the necessity of the measure there recommended—if it is much longer neglected, I shall not scruple to add that our affairs are irretrievably lost!
I see no cause to retract a single sentiment contained in that long letter, but many very many alarming proofs in confirmation of the truth of them—if the letter therefore is in being, you are possessed as fully of my ideas on the several matters there touched as I have words to express them, and may allow them such weight as you think they deserve. An instance in proof of one of my positions I may give, because it is a fact of such notoriety that to the enemy, and to ourselves it is equally well known: it is, that Beef in the Market of Phila. is from ten to 15/ a pound, and other things in proportion; Country produce and imported Goods are equally dear. Under these circumstances, and no appearances that I can see of a radical cure, it is not difficult to predict the fate of our Paper Money, and with it a general Crash of all things.1
The measures of Ministry are taken; and the whole strength and resources of the Kingdom will be exerted against us this Campaign; while we have been either slumbering and sleeping or disputing upon trifles, contenting ourselves with laughing at the impotence of G. Britain, which we supposed to be on her knees, begging mercy of us and forgiveness for past offences, instead of devising ways and means to recruit our Battalions, provide supplies, and improving our finances, thereby providing against the worst and a very possible contingency.
Accounts from London to the 9th of March have fixed me in the opinion that G. Britain will strain every nerve to distress us this Campaign, but where or in what manner her principal force will be employed I cannot determine. That a pretty considerable number of Troops will be sent from G. Britain does not, I think, admit of a doubt, but whether for the West Indies, Georgia, or New York, or partly to all three, time must unfold. My own opinion of the matter is that they will keep a respectable force at the last mentioned place, and push their operations vigorously to the Southward, where we are most vulnerable and least able to afford succor. By extracts from the English Papers of the 4th of March it appears pretty evident that Seven, Regiments, besides two of the New raised Scotch Corps, Recruits for the Guards, and other Regits. now in America, were upon the point of embarking; the whole, it is said, would amount to 12 or 13,000 Men. A Bill has passed both Houses of Parliament obliging each parish in the Kingdom to furnish two Men, by which, it is said, 27,000 will be raised. With this augmentation and her fleets, which are more than a match for the Naval strength of France alone, she may, circumstanced as we are, give a very unfavorable turn to that pleasing slumber we have been in for the last eight months, and which has produc’d nothing but dreams of Peace and Independence—if Spain can be kept quiet. To effect which, there is no doubt but that all the art and address of the Ministry will be displayed, and with too much success, it is to be feared, as it will be difficult upon any political ground (I am capable of investigating,) to account for the backwardness of that Court, if it means to take an active part, as the Fleet of France and Independence of America are hazarded by the delay.
From present appearances, I have not the smallest doubt but that we shall be hard pushed in every quarter. This campaign will be grand, and if unsuccessful, more than probably the last struggle of G. Britain; how much then does it behoove us to be prepar’d at all points to avert their intended blows. They are raising all the Indians from North to South that their arts and their money can procure, and a powerful diversion they will make in this quarter, with the aid expected from Canada. They have already begun their depredations. Under this view of things, which I believe is not exagerated, and the probability of the enemy’s operating to the Southward out of supporting distance of this Army, would it not be good policy in the State of Virginia to extend their views to the necessary and effectual support of their Southern neighbors? The slow, ineffectual, and expensive modes ordinarily used to draw out the Militia, is ruinous in ye extreme, on account of the enormous expence which is incurred in the consumption of Provisions and stores, to say nothing of the useless time which they are paid for in coming, going, and waiting for each other, at any given point or place of rendezvous, or the injuries which agriculture and manufactures sustain. I know too little of the policy, energy, and situation of your government to hazard a clear opinion on the propriety, or practicability of any measure adequate to this end; nor do I know upon what footing your minute men, which existed at the commencement of the dispute, were put (as the establishment of them happened after I left Virginia); but it appears to me that if a certain proportion of the Militia of each County are enrolled under this description, properly officered by men who had seen service and know how to train them, and were inform’d that they were to be first called to service, it might prove a very happy resource. If the proportion which shall be agreed on cannot be obtained voluntarily from ye Militia, let the private perform ye duty by rotation. These are but crude ideas, and will, in case they should merit notice at all, require time and consideration to digest them to system and order. My forebodings may lead me too far; but apprehensive as I am on account of the situation of Southern States, I shall hope to stand excused for this freedom of thought, especially as I am convinced that Militia which can only be drawn out for short, limited periods, can afford no effectual aid, while they ruin us in expence.
Little did I expect when I begun this letter, that I should have spun it out to this length, or that I should have run into such freedom of sentiment; but I have been led on insensibly, and therefore shall not haggle at the mention of one thing which I am desirous to touch upon, it is with respect to the treatment of the Convention troops, now in Virginia. No man in the early part of this War wished more than I did to soften the hardships of captivity by seeing the enemy’s Officers, prisoners with us, treated with every mark of humanity, civility, and respect.1 But such invariable proofs of ungrateful returns, from an opinion that all your civilities are ye result of fear; such incessant endeavors, maugre all their paroles, to poison the minds of those around them; such arts and address to accomplish this, by magnifying the power of G. Britain to some, her favorable disposition to others, and combining the two arguments to a third set; that I cannot help looking upon them as dangerous guests in the bowels of our Country, and apprehending a good deal from the hospitality and unsuspicious temper of my Countrymen, the more indulged they are, the more indulgencies they will require, and more pernicious they grow under them; and I am much mistaken if those who pay most attention to them do not find the greatest cause for repentance. I view General Phillips in the light of a dangerous man. In his march to Charlottesville he was guilty of a very great breach of military propriety, nay—of a procedure highly criminal; for instead of pursuing the route pointed out to him, namely the one by which the Troops of Convention marched through Leesburg, Orange, &ca., he struck down to George Town in Maryland, from thence went by water to Alexandria (taking as I am told the soundings of the River as he went), and from thence to Fredericksburg. True it is, that the officer who conducted him was more culpable than he; but upon enquiry it is found that this officer is a person over whom I have no controul as he is a prisoner of theirs. I only mention these things in proof of the necessity of keeping a watchful eye upon these officers. And let me add, if you think you gain by the apparent desertion of the men I can assure you you are deceived; we are every day apprehending these People in their attempts to get into New York. In a word, I had such good ground to suspect that under pretence of desertion numbers of them intended to get into New York, that I was induced to march parallel with them as they pass’d thro’ N. York and Jersey, and post guards at proper places to intercept them; notwithstanding which, numbers, aided by the Tories who kept them concealed in the Mountains and obscure places, effected a junction with the enemy in the City.—Above all things, suffer them not to engage in your service as Soldiers, for so sure as they do, so sure do they rob you of your bounty and arms, and more than probably carry a man or two along with them to ye enemy.
I have already informed you that the Indians have begun their depredations on the Frontiers, and I have the pleasure to add, that we are endeavoring to pay them in their own Coin. About a fortnight ago, I sent 500 Men against the Onondago settlement, which they destroyed with their Provisions and ammunition, killed 12 of them (and their Horses and Cattle)—took 34 prisoners, 100 stand of Arms, and did them other damage without the loss of a Man. This with what may follow, will, it is to be hoped, be attended with salutary effects.
The enemy have been busily employed some days in preparing nine Regiments for Imbarkation, but for what Service they are intended is uncertain—most likely Georgia, No measures are taking by any of the States to compleat their Battalions; none at least that promises success, except in Virginia where the measure was set about in time. I leave you under this relation and these circumstances to draw your own conclusions, & am with every sentiment of regard and affectn. Yrs. &c.
P. S. May 7th. This letter will go by Colo Spotswood to Fredg. instead of the Post—I have this instant received advice of the sailing of the Troops mentioned above (as preparing to imbark), their number said to be 4000. I have ordered all the Virginia levies to be form’d into 3 Regiments, and marched under the command of Gen’l Scott immediately for Georgia. Officers are going from Camp to take charge of them. Bland’s and Baylor’s Regiments will, I believe, also be sent thither; but if the Troops here mentioned are destined for the Southward more aid must be sent to our Army; or South Carolina will soon be added to Georgia.
TO BRIGADIER-GENERAL MAXWELL.
* * * * * *
I inclose you answers to the questions, which you will put into the hands of your Spy. He may be instructed to say, that he sent the questions to a friend of his near this camp, and received from him the answers. This occurs to me as the most eligible plan. However you will judge yourself on the occasion—I think you had better have them copied in an indifferent hand, preserving the bad spelling at the same time. * * * I am &c—
No. 1. Where is Mr. Washington and what number of men has he with him.
No. 2. What number of cannon has Mr. Washington with him and what general officers.—
No. 3. Whether there is to be a draft of the militia to join Mr. Washington & how the inhabitants like it—
No. 4—Whether there is any discontent among the soldiers—
No. 5. Whether the inhabitants would resort to the King’s standard provided a post was taken in Jersey and civil government established,
No. 6. Your Account of the Situation of the army with every other matter you can collect.
1st. Cant tell the number exactly—some says eight thosand and very knowing hands ten thosand. I dont think he has 8000 with himself, besides the Jersey brigade, and another brigade which I hear is at Paramus.
Gen: Washington keeps head quarters at Mrs. Wallis’s house four miles from Bandbrook.
2d. There is about sixty cannon in the parke at Plukemin, and not more than 8 or 10 with his troops at Bandbrook camp. The general officers is General Starling and Gen: Greene (Gen: Howe is at Philadelphia I am told and coming on to camp) Genl. de Kalbee, and Gen. Stubun French generals—Gen: Sullivan (General Gates I hear is ordered here) Genl. Woodford, Gen. Mulimburg, Smallwood, Gist and one Genl. McIntosh.
3d. The militia all ready to come out when signals is fired, which is pleaced up in all places in Jersey. They seem very angry with the British and curse them for keeping on the war Many of them brag that the wold take revenge if they could get but a good opportunity, and General Washington to back them.
4th. I cant say theres much discontent among the sodgers, tho’ their Money is so bad. They get plenty of provisions, and have got better cloes now than ever they had. They are very well off only for hatts. They give them a good deal of rum and whiskey, and this I suppose helps with the lies their officers are always telling them to keep up their spirits.
five. The people talk much as they used to do—Some seem to get tired of the war—But the rebels seem to have a great spite against our friends and want to get their estates.—I have heard some of these say—they would be glad to see the Inglish again in Jersey; but I have heard some again say, that the Inglish come into the country a little while, and then leave it and get their friends into trouble and then they loose their estates. I dont know whether many would join.
Mr. Washington’s army is in three parts, two of them General Starling and Gen. Kables are upon the mountains over Bondbrook and Generals Sinclairs men on this side of Vanwikten bridge on high ground. They all seem to be all getting ready for something. The waggons at the artifishers are getting ready, and they are bringing in all the horses from the country—No body knows certain what they are going to do. A friend who keeps always with them, tells me that he cant tell (I must not tell you his name just now) he thinks something very grand if it could be known he thinks for he heard a servant of Lord Starlings say, that he heard Lord Starling tell another officer that he hoped they would have New-York before long and said the New England Militia were all coming to help them.
I would write you more but you have not given me time remember me to our friends in York—and dont forget to bring what I wrote for when you were last out.
P. S. dont send your next letter by the same hand, for I have reason to be suspicious. I would not send this by him. When he left me he went strait to Washingtons head quarters.
TO BRIGADIER-GENERAL MAXWELL.
I have received your two favors of yesterdays date—one of them with infinite concern. There is nothing which has happened in the course of the war that has given me so much pain as the remonstrance you mention from the officers of the first Jersey regiment. I cannot but consider it as a hasty and imprudent step, which on more cool consideration they will themselves condemn. I am very sensible of the inconveniences under which the officers of the Army labor and I hope they do me the justice to believe, that my endeavors to procure them relief are incessant. There is however more difficulty in satisfying their wishes than perhaps they are aware. Our resources have been hitherto very limited; the situation of our money is no small embarrassment, for which, though there are remedies, they cannot be the work of a moment;—Government is not insensible of the merits and sacrifices of the officers, nor, I am persuaded unwilling to make a compensation; but it is a truth, of which a little observation must convince us, that it is very much straitened in the means. Great allowances ought to be made on this account for any delay and seeming backwardness which may appear. Some of the states indeed have done as generously as it is at this juncture in their power, and if others have been less expeditious it ought to be ascribed to some peculiar cause, which a little time aided by example will remove. The patience and perseverance of the Army have been under every disadvantage such as to do them the highest honor both at home and abroad; and have inspired me with an unlimited confidence in their virtue, which has consoled me amidst every perplexity and reverse of fortune, to which our affairs in a struggle of this nature were necessarily exposed. Now that we have made so great a progress to the attainment of the end we have in view—so that we cannot fail without a most shameful desertion of our own interests, any thing like a change of conduct would imply a very unhappy change of principles and a forgetfulness as well of what we owe to ourselves as to our country. Did I suppose it possible this could be the case even in a single regiment of the Army, I should be mortified and chagrined beyond expression. I should feel it as a wound given to my own honor, which I consider as embarked with that of the Army at large. But this I believe to be impossible. Any corps that was about to set an example of the kind would weigh well the consequences, and no officer of common discernment and sensibility would hazard them. If they should stand alone in it, independent of other consequences, what would be their feelings on reflecting that they had held themselves out to the world in a point of light inferior to the rest of the Army? or if their example should be followed, and become general, how would they console themselves for having been the foremost in bringing ruin and disgrace upon their country? They would remember that the Army would share a double portion of the general infamy and distress; and that the character of an American officer would become as despicable as it is now glorious.
I confess the appearances in the present instance are disagreeable; but I am convinced they seem to mean more than they really do. The Jersey officers have not been outdone by any others in the qualities either of citizens or soldiers; and I am confident no part of them would seriously intend anything that would be a stain to their former reputation—The Gentlemen cannot be in earnest; they have only reasoned wrong about the means of obtaining a good end, and on reconsideration I hope and flatter myself they will renounce what must appear improper. At the opening of a campaign, when under marching orders for an important service,—their own honor, duty to the public and to themselves,—a regard to military propriety, will not suffer them to persist in a measure which would be a violation of them all. It will even wound their delicacy coolly to reflect that they have hazarded a step which has an air of dictating terms to their country,—by taking advantage of the necessity of the moment.
The declaration they have made to the state at so critical a time, that unless they obtain relief in the short period of three days, they must be considered out of the service, has very much this aspect; and the seeming relaxation of continuing till the state can have a reasonable time to provide other officers will be thought only a superficial veil.
I am now to request that you will convey my sentiments to the Gentlemen concerned and endeavor to make them sensible that they are in an error. The service for which the regiment was intended will not admit of delay; it must at all events march on Monday morning, in the first place to this camp, and further directions will be given when it arrives. I am sure I shall not be mistaken in expecting a prompt and chearful obedience.
I am, &c.,1
TO GOUVERNEUR MORRIS.
Hd.-Qrs.,Middlebrook, May 8th, 1779.
Monsieur Gerard did me the honor to deliver me your favor of the 26th. I shall always feel obliged to you, my dear Sir, for a free communication of your sentiments, on whatsoever subject may occur. The objects of your letter were important. Mr. Gerard, I dare say, has made it unnecessary for me to recapitulate what passed between him and myself, and has informed you of the alternative I proposed for improving the important event announced by him. From what he told me, it appears, that sufficient assurances cannot be given of points, which are essential to justify the great undertaking you had in view,1 at the expense of other operations very interesting; and, indeed, though I was desirous to convince the Minister, that we are willing to make every effort in our power for striking a decisive blow, yet my judgment rather inclined to the second plan, as promising more certain success without putting so much to hazard. The relief of the Southern States appears to me an object of the greatest magnitude, and one that may lead to still more important advantages. I feel infinite anxiety on their account. Their internal weakness, disaffection, the want of energy, the general languor that has seized the people at large, makes me apprehend the most serious consequences. It would seem, too, as if the enemy meant to transfer the principal weight of the war that way. If it be true, that a large detachment has lately sailed from New York, and that Sir Henry Clinton is gone with it, in which several accounts I have received agree, (though I do not credit the latter,) and these should be destined for the southward, as is most probable, there can be little doubt, that this is the present plan. Charles Town, it is likely, will feel the next stroke. This, if it succeeds, will leave the enemy in full possession of Georgia, by obliging us to collect our forces for the defence of South Carolina, and will, consequently, open new sources for men and supplies, and prepare the way for a further career. The climate I am aware is an obstacle, but perhaps not so great as is imagined; and, when we consider the difference in our respective means of preserving health, it may possibly be found more adverse to our troops than to theirs. In this critical situation, I hardly know any resource we have, unless it be in the event expected;1 and the supposed reinforcement now on its way,2 for want of a competent land force on our part, may make even this dependence precarious. If it should fail, our affairs, which have a very sickly aspect in many respects, will receive a stroke they are little able to bear.
As a variety of accidents may disappoint our hopes here, it is indispensable we should make every exertion on our part to check the enemy’s progress. This cannot be done to effect, if our reliance is solely or principally on militia; for a force continually fluctuating is incapable of any material effort. The States concerned ought by all means to endeavor to draw out men for a length of time. A smaller number, on this plan, would answer their purpose better; a great deal of expense would be avoided, and agriculture would be much less impeded. It is to be lamented, that the remoteness and weakness of this army would make it folly to attempt to send any succor from this quarter. Perhaps, from want of knowing the true state of our foreign expectations and prospects of finance, I may be led to contemplate the gloomy side of things; but I confess they appear to me to be in a very disagreeable train. The rapid decay of our currency, the extinction of public spirit, the increasing rapacity of the times, the want of harmony in our councils, the declining zeal of the people, the discontents and distresses of the officers of the army, and I may add, the prevailing security and insensibility to danger, are symptoms, in my eye, of a most alarming nature. If the enemy have it in their power to press us hard this campaign, I know not what may be the consequence. Our army, as it now stands, is but little more than the skeleton of an army; and I hear of no steps that are taking to give it strength and substance. I hope there may not be great mistakes on this head, and that our abilities in general are not overrated. The applications for succor are numerous, but no pains are taken to put it in my power to afford them. When I endeavor to draw together the Continental troops for the most essential purposes, I am embarrassed with complaints of the exhausted, defenceless situation of particular States, and find myself obliged, either to resist solicitations, made in such a manner and with such a degree of emphasis as scarcely to leave me a choice, or to sacrifice the most obvious principles of military propriety and risk the general safety. I shall conclude by observing, that it is well worthy the ambition of a patriot statesman at this juncture, to endeavor to pacify party differences, to give fresh vigor to the springs of government, to inspire the people with confidence, and above all to restore the credit of our currency. I am, dear Sir, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
The fleet mentioned in Governor Johnson’s letter may contain the detachment, which lately sailed from New York; and the object may be, if not to rescue, at least to facilitate the desertion of the convention troops. This is the prevailing opinion in New York, countenanced among other circumstances by the Goodriches and others, natives of Virginia, being of the party. A rescue, with common prudence on our side, would be difficult. I hope this will not be wanting, but it may be no easy matter to prevent very considerable desertion. The enemy may possibly take some convenient and secure post to afford opportunities. Our obvious policy on an emergency will be to remove the troops, perhaps to divide them.
But the present appearance may be only a diversion, to delay the reinforcements going from Virginia to the southward, while the detachment may in reality have proceeded on its voyage to prosecute the intended operations in that quarter. In this case, the vessels that have been seen may have a few troops on board, the better to cover the artifice, and, it may be, will call at particular places, which have been preconcerted, to receive deserters instructed to meet them there. We should be upon our guard against a deception of this kind, which may unnecessarily detain the levies to the injury of our southern affairs. In the present uncertainty, and at this distance, it is hard to form any precise opinion of what ought to be done. I would only beg leave to observe, that the arms destined for the levies should be hastened forward to them, that they may be enabled to act according to circumstances, and that if appearances continue, without producing any thing decisive, the convention troops ought to be effectually taken care of, and every provision made, that the levies may not be improperly detained.
The detachment, which sailed from New York, according to the best information I have received, consists of one battalion of guards, Lord Rawdon’s corps, the forty-second Highlanders, a German regiment, and fifty Bucks county dragoons, estimated at about two thousand men. They were convoyed by the Raisonable of sixty-four, the Rainbow of forty-four guns, and a small frigate. There remain now at New York two frigates of twenty guns, two sloops of war, and a few privateers, which is all the protection there is to a large number of transports. If our frigates to the eastward could be speedily collected, I should hope a very important blow might be struck there without much risk. It seems to be well worth the experiment. If Congress view the matter in the same light, they will no doubt give the necessary directions with all possible secrecy and despatch. I have the honor to be, &c.
TO JOHN ARMSTRONG.
I have received your favor of the 10th inst. by Col. Blaine, and thank you for it. Never was there an observation founded in more truth than yours of my having a choice of difficulties. I cannot say that the resolve of Congress which you allude to has increased them, but with propriety I may observe it has added to my embarrassment in fixing on the least, inasmuch as it gives me powers without the means of execution when they ought at least to be co-equal.
The cries of the distressed, of the fatherless and widows, come to me from all quarters. The States are not behind hand in making application for assistance, notwithstanding scarce any one of them, that I can find, is taking effectual measures to complete its quota of continental troops, or has even power, or energy enough to draw forth its militia. Each complains of neglect, because it gets not what it asks, and conceives that none others suffers like itself, because it is ignorant of what others experience, receiving the complaints of its own people only. I have a hard time of it, and a disagreeable task. To please everybody is impossible; were I to undertake it, I should probably please nobody. If I know myself I have no partialities. I have from the beginning, and I hope I shall to the end, pursue to the utmost of my judgment and abilities, one steady line of conduct for the good of the great whole. This will, under all circumstances, administer consolation to myself, however short I may fall in the expectation of others.
But to leave smaller matters, I am much mistaken if the resolve of Congress hath not an eye to something far beyond our abilities. They are, I conceive, sufficiently acquainted with the state and strength of the army, of our resources, and how they are to be drawn out. The powers given may be beneficial, but do not let Congress deceive themselves by false expectation, founded on a superficial view of things in general, and the strength of their own troops in particular. For in a word I give it to you as my opinion, that if the reinforcement expected by the enemy should arrive, and no effectual measures be taken to complete our battalions and stop the further depreciation of our money, I do not see upon what ground we are able, or mean to continue the contest. We now stand upon the brink of a precipice, from whence the smallest help casts us headlong. At this moment our money does not pass, at what rate I need not add, because the unsatisfied demands on the Treasury afford too many unequivocal and alarming proofs to stand in need of illustration. Even at this hour everything is, in a manner, at a stand, for want of this money (such as it is) and because many of the States instead of passing laws to aid the several departments of the army, have done the reverse, and hampered the transportation in such a way as to stop the supplies which are indispensably necessary, and for want of which we are embarrassed exceedingly.
This is a summary of our affairs in general, to which I am to add that the officers, unable any longer to support themselves in the army, are resigning continually, or doing what is worse, spreading discontent, and possibly the seeds of sedition. You will readily perceive, my dear Sir, that this is a confidential letter, and that however willing I may be to disclose such matters or such sentiments to particular friends who are entrusted with the government of our great national concerns, I shall be extremely unwilling to have them communicated to any others; as I should feel much compunction if a single word or thought of mine was to create the smallest despair in our own people, or feed the hope of the enemy who I know pursue with avidity every track which leads to a discovery of the sentiments of men in office. Such (that is men in office) I wish to be impressed, deeply impressed with the importance of a close attention, and vigorous exertion of the means for extricating our finances from the deplorable situation in which they now are. I never was, much less reason have I now, to be afraid of the enemy’s arms; but I have no scruple in declaring to you, that I have never yet seen the time in which our affairs (in my opinion) were at so low an ebb as they are at present; and without a speedy and capital change, we shall not be able in a very short time to call out the strength and resources of the country. The hour, therefore, is certainly come when party differences and disputes should subside, when every man (especially those in office) should with one hand and one heart, pull the same way and with all their strength. Providence has done, and I am persuaded is disposed to do, a great deal for us, but we are not to forget the fable of Jupiter and the carman.
P. S. I am not insensible to the force of your remark contained in the P. S. of your letter, and can assure you that the person you allude to was not appointed from motives of partiality or in a hasty manner.1 After long and cool deliberation, a due consideration of characters and circumstances, and some regard to military rules and propriety, I could do no better. I must work with such means as I am furnished. You know, I presume, that the command was offered to General G—tes, who declined the acceptance of it.
CIRCULAR TO THE STATES.
Head Quarters,Middle Brook,
The situation of our affairs at this period appears to me peculiarly critical, and this I flatter myself will apologise for that anxiety which impels me to take the liberty of addressing you on the present occasion.
The state of the army in particular is alarming on several accounts—that of its numbers is not among the least. Our battalions are exceedingly reduced, not only from the natural decay incident to the best composed armies; but from the expiration of the term of service for which a large proportion of the men were engaged. The measures hitherto taken to replace them, so far as has come to my knowledge, have been attended with very partial success; and I am ignorant of any others in contemplation that afford a better prospect. A reinforcement expected from Virginia, consisting of new levies and re-inlisted men, is necessarily ordered to the Southward. Not far short of one third of our whole force must be detached on a service undertaken by the direction of Congress and essential in itself. I shall only say of what remains, that when it is compared with the force of the enemy now actually at New York and Rhode Island, with the addition of the succors, they will in all probability receive from England, at the lowest computation—it will be found to justify very serious apprehensions and to demand the zealous attention of the different legislatures.
When we consider the rapid decline of our currency—the general temper of the times—the dissatisfaction of a great part of the people—the lethargy that overspreads the rest—the increasing danger to the Southern States—we cannot but dread the consequences of any misfortune in this quarter; and must feel the impolicy of trusting our security to a want of activity and enterprise in the Enemy.
An expectation of peace and an opinion of the Enemy’s inability to send more troops to this country, I fear, have had too powerful an influence in our affairs. I have never heard any thing conclusive to authorise the former, and present appearances are in my opinion against it. The accounts we receive from Europe uniformly announce vigorous preparations to continue the war, at least another campaign. The debates and proceedings in Parliament wear this complexion. The public papers speak confidently of large reinforcements destined for America. The Minister in his speech asserts positively that reinforcements will be sent over to Sir Henry Clinton; though he acknowledges the future plan of the war will be less extensive than the past—Let it be supposed, that the intended succors will not exceed five thousand men. This will give the Enemy a superiority very dangerous to our safety, if their strength be properly exerted and our situation is not materially altered for the better. These considerations and many more that might be suggested point to the necessity of immediate and decisive exertions to complete our battalions and to make our military force more respectable. I thought it my duty to give an idea of the true state and to urge the attention of the States to a matter in which their safety and happiness are so deeply interested. I hope a concern for the public good will be admitted as the motive and excuse of my importunity.
There is one point which I beg leave to mention also. The want of system which has prevailed in the clothier’s department has been the source of innumerable evils—defective supplies, irregular and unequal issues—great waste, loss, and expense to the public—general dissatisfaction in the Army—much confusion and perplexity—an additional load of business to the officers commanding, make but a part of them. I have for a long time past most ardently desired to see a reformation. Congress by a resolve of the 23d of March has established an ordinance for regulating this department. According to this, there is a sub or State clothier to be appointed by each State. I know not what instructions may have been given relative to these appointments; but, if the matter now rests with the particular States, I take the liberty to press their execution without loss of time. The service suffers amazingly from the disorder in this department, and the regulations for it cannot be too soon carried into effect. * * *
TO MAJOR-GENERAL SULLIVAN.
Head-Quarters, 31 May, 1779.
The expedition you are appointed to command is to be directed against the hostile tribes of the Six Nations of Indians, with their associates and adherents. The immediate objects are the total destruction and devastation of their settlements, and the capture of as many prisoners of every age and sex as possible. It will be essential to ruin their crops now in the ground & prevent their planting more—The troops to be employed under your command are Clinton’s, Maxwell’s, Poor’s and Hand’s brigades, and Independent Companies raised in the State of Pennsylvania. In Hand’s brigade I comprehend all the detached corps of Continental troops now on the Susquehanna, and Spencer’s regiment. Cortlandt’s I consider as belonging to Clinton’s brigade; Alden’s may go to Poor’s, & Butler’s & the rifle corps to Maxwell’s or Hand’s.
Clinton’s brigade, you are informed, has been ordered to rendezvous at Canajoharie, subject to your orders, either to form a junction with the main body on the Susquehanna, by the way of Otsego, or to proceed up the Mohawk River and coöperate in the best manner circumstances will permit, as you judge most advisable. So soon as your preparations are in sufficient forwardness, you will assemble your main body at Wyoming, and proceed thence to Tioga, taking from that place the most direct and practicable route into the heart of The Indian Settlements. You will establish such intermediate posts, as you think necessary for the security of your communication and convoys; nor need I caution you, while you leave a sufficiency of men for their defence, to take care to diminish your operating force as little as possible. A post at Tioga will be particularly necessary, either a stockade fort, or an intrenched camp; if the latter, a block-house should be erected in the interior. I would recomd. that some post in the center of the Indian Country, should be occupied with all expedition, with a sufficient quantity of provisions; whence parties should be detached to lay waste all the settlements around, with instructions to do it in the most effectual manner, that the country may not be merely overrun, but destroyed.
I need not urge the necessity of using every method in your power to gain intelligence of the enemy’s strength, motions, and designs; nor need I suggest the extraordinary degree of vigilance and caution which will be necessary to guard against surprises from an adversary so secret, desultory, and rapid as the Indians.
If a detachment operate on the Mohock River, the commanding officer should be instructed to be very watchful that no troops come from Oswegatchie and Niagara to Oswego without his knowledge: and for this purpose he should keep trusty spies at those three places to advertise him instantly of the movement of any party and its force. This detachment should also endeavor to keep up a constant intercourse with the main body.
I beg leave to suggest, as general rules that ought to govern your operations, to make rather than receive attacks, attended with as much impetuosity, shouting, and noise, as possible; and to make the troops act in as loose and dispersed a way as is consistent with a proper degree of government, concert, and mutual support. It should be previously impressed upon the minds of the men, whenever they have an opportunity, to rush on with the war-whoop and fixed bayonet. Nothing will disconcert and terrify the Indians more than this.
More than common care will be necessary of your arms and ammunition from the nature of the service—They should be particularly inspected after a rain or the passage of any deep water.
After you have very thoroughly completed the destruction of their settlements, if the indians should show a disposition for peace, I would have you encourage it, on condition that they will give some decisive evidence of their sincerity, by delivering up some of the principal instigators of their past hostility into our hands: Butler, Brant, the most mischievous of the Tories, that have joined them, or any others they may have in their power, that we are interested to get into ours. They may possibly be engaged, by address, secrecy, and stratagem, to surprise the garrison of Niagara, and the shipping on the Lakes, and put them into our possession. This may be demanded, as a condition of our friendship, and would be a most important point gained. If they can render a service of this kind, you may stipulate to assist them in their distress with supplies of provisions and other articles of which they will stand in need; having regard, in the expectations you give them, to our real abilities to perform. I have no power at present to authorize you to conclude a treaty of peace with them, but you may agree upon the terms of one, letting them know that it must be finally ratified by Congress, and giving them every proper assurance that it will. I shall write to Congress on the subject and endeavor to obtain more ample and definitive authority.
When we have effectually chastised them, we may then listen to peace, and endeavor to draw further advantages from their fears. But, even in this case, great caution will be necessary to guard against the snares, which their treachery may hold out. They must be explicit in their promises, give substantial pledges for their performance, and execute their engagements with decision and despatch. Hostages are the only kind of security to be depended on. Should Niagara fall into your hands in the manner I have mentioned—you will do every thing in your power for preserving and maintaining it, by establishing a chain of posts, in such manner as shall appear to you most safe and effectual and tending as little to reduce our general force as possible—This however we shall be better able to decide as the future events of the campaign unfold themselves—I shall be more explicit on the subject hereafter.—When you have completed the objects of your expedition, unless otherwise directed in the mean time, you will return to form a junction with the main army, by the most convenient, expeditious, and secure route, according to circumstances. The route by the Mohawk River, if it can be pursued without too great a risk, will perhaps be most eligible on several accounts. Much should depend on the relative position of the main army at the time. As it is impossible to foresee what may be the exigencies of the service in this quarter, this united with other important reasons makes it essential that your operations should be as rapid and that the expedition should be performed in as little time as will be consistent with its success and efficacy.
And here I cannot forbear repeating my former caution, that your troops may move as light and as little encum[bered] as possible even from their first outset—The state of our magazines demands it as well as other considerations—if much time should be lost in transporting the troops and stores up the River—the provision for the expedition will be consumed, & the general scantiness of our supplies will not permit their being replaced—consequently the whole enterprise may be defeated. I would recommend it to you for this purpose that the General Officers should make an actual inspection of the baggage of their several brigades and absolutely reject to be left behind at proper places, every article that can be dispensed with on the expedition—This is an extraordinary case and requires extraordinary attention. Relying perfectly upon your judgment, prudence, and activity, I have the highest expectation of success equal to our wishes; and I beg leave to assure you, that I anticipate with great pleasure the honor, which will redound to yourself, and the advantage to the common cause, from a happy termination of this important enterprise.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
In the letter, which I did myself the honor to write to Your Excellency on the 25th of May, I mentioned the appearances which indicated that the enemy had some important enterprise in contemplation.1 These appearances have since increased, ’till they seem to have arrived at a very interesting crisis. The enclosed extracts from the intelligence I have successively received will show their progress, and the point at which they last stood. Congress will observe, by General St. Clair’s letter, that he expected to reach Pompton last night. The Virginia division, commanded by Lord Stirling, marched yesterday for the same place. Baron de Kalb, with the Maryland troops, follows this morning. We shall press forward with all diligence, and do every thing in our power to disappoint the enemy. I expect to set out this day towards the Highlands, by way of Morris Town. I mention the route, that any despatches coming from Congress may the more readily find me. There are five brigades of Continental troops, besides the two Carolina regiments, under the command of General McDougall.
At the first appearance of a movement among the enemy, I redoubled my efforts to put the army here in a state of readiness for taking the field. These have been seconded by the utmost exertions of the Quarter-Master-General; but the very great difficulty of procuring horses and waggons, and the scarcity of forage, have unavoidably retarded our preparations. I beg leave to enclose an extract of a letter I have just received from General Gates, of the 25 of May on the very important subject of money. I entreat that Congress will be pleased to order him an immediate and adequate supply, as the necessity is urgent and it would be dangerous to risk a revival of the discontent, which lately appeared among the troops at Providence for want of pay. It is also much to be desired, that he may be enabled to reenlist the men he mentions during the war. I am, &c.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Ringwood Iron-Works, 6 June, 1779.
On the 3d I had the Honor to address Your Excellency from Middle Brook and Morris Town—and to transmit you all the intelligence I had then received respecting the movements of the enemy on the North River; and of the measures I had taken and was about to pursue in consequence.
I am now to inform you, according to the advices I have obtained, that, on the 2d in the morning, the Enemy opened a Battery at Stony Point, which lies on the West side of the Hudson at the landing at King’s Ferry, against a small detached work which had been erected on Verplanck’s Point, on the East side, and kept up a constant fire upon it, in conjunction with their Ships, till four in the afternoon, when the party stationed in it, finding that it was also invested on the land side in force, surrendered by capitulation.2 The next day, that part of the Enemy, which was landed on the East side of the River, computed at five thousand, advanced to the Bald Hill below the Continental Village, when it was expected that they meant to attack our troops in that quarter and to gain, if possible, Nelson’s Point opposite to Fort Arnold,1 while Sir Henry Clinton, with the remainder of the army, should proceed from Haverstraw Bay against the Fort, by the routes on the West side. This however was not attempted, and the body of the Enemy, that appeared before the village, returned, without making any attack, to the ground from which they had moved. The Enemy have remained since in two divisions on the opposite sides of the River. Their Vessels have generally fallen down below King’s Ferry, and twelve square-rigged, with Eight of a smaller size and Fifteen flat-bottomed boats, with troops on board, stood down the River yesterday, and were seen till they turned the Point, which forms the upper part of Tappan Bay. The rest of the fleet (the whole of which is reported to have consisted of about Seventy sail, and a hundred & fifty flat-bottomed boats great & small) keep their station; and the division of troops on this side, from the latest advices, were very industriously employed yesterday in fortifying Stony Point, which, from its peninsular and commanding form, is naturally strong, and which, from the narrowness of the neck, that connects it to the main, may be insulated and maintained without very great difficulty. This, Sir, is a summary of the intelligence, and of the situation of the Enemy.1
Their movements and conduct are very perplexing, and leave it difficult to determine what are their real objects. However, as the posts in the Highlands are of infinite consequence, and the point in which we can be most essentially injured, I shall take every measure in my power to provide for their security, and accordingly shall make such a disposition of the army as shall best promise to answer the end. If they should not operate against those posts, it would seem that one part of their expedition, and a principal one, is, to cut off the communication by the way of King’s Ferry by establishing Garrisons. I have the honor to be, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL GATES.
Hd.-Qrs. Smith’s Clove, 11 June, 1779.
I have duly received your two letters of the 25 and 30th of May, which the situation of affairs in this quarter prevented my acknowledging sooner. I can only lament, that your prospects of reinforcement are so unfavorable. The appearances are not better for the main army. It would almost seem, as if the States were determined to let our security depend entirely on a want of enterprise in the enemy.
With respect to my plans, the only offensive one I could have in contemplation independent on contingencies, has been announced to you; I mean the western expedition. Our defensive ones must depend on the movements of the enemy. I imagined you had too just an idea of the comparative state of their strength and ours, to make a particular explanation on this head necessary; but the opinion you express in your last, of the glorious opportunity of making an attack upon New York, shows that you must either greatly overrate our force, or undervalue that of the enemy. Indeed, you are entirely mistaken in your estimate of the detachments, which have gone from New York since the 1st of October last, including that to Virginia, which has lately returned. They did not amount to much more than one half the number you mentioned; at the highest calculation they could not exceed nine thousand five hundred. The force then remaining at New York and its dependencies, by the lowest computation, was not less than nine thousand serviceable men. It is now eleven thousand. You will judge from this state of facts, whether the opportunity for attacking New York was a very glorious one or not.1
I am almost entirely in the dark, as to our foreign prospects, and can therefore give you no light on that head. I have little more for my own government, than newspaper intelligence, common report, and conjecture. Instantly on the receipt of yours of the 25th of May, I despatched an extract from it to Congress, and urged an immediate and competent supply of money. I agree with you, that a precedent of payment for deficiency of rations would be dangerous and very hard to get over.
You will have heard that the enemy have made a movement up the North River, and taken possession of Verplanck’s and Stony points. They are fortifying and seem determined to keep possession. It is judicious on their part, and will be productive of advantages to them and inconveniences to us, which will be too obvious to you to need enumeration. They have about six thousand men on the two divisions. A part of those, who came up at first, have since returned to New York. An attempt to dislodge them, from the natural strength of the positions, would require a greater force and apparatus, than we are masters of. All we can do, is to lament what we cannot remedy, endeavor to prevent a further progress on the river, and to make the advantages of what they have now gained as limited as possible.1 I am, Sir, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Head Quarters,New Windsor,
It gives me infinite pain, that the circumstances of the service oblige me to trouble Congress with a frequent repetition of the same subjects. But every hour distracts my attention with fresh instances of the inconveniences, that result from the want of system in a department which I have frequently mentioned. These compel me again to intreat that Congress will be pleased to take decisive measures to extricate it from the confusion in which it is involved.
I am at a loss to know to whom I am to address my self, as head of the clothier’s department. Every deputy seems to act by a separate and independent authority. There seems to be no person to take a general superintendency, to apportion the stock in hand to the different parts of the Army, their numbers and wants; and to preserve a common rule in the mode of delivery. For want of this, while the troops at one post are amply supplied, those at another are suffering the greatest distress. The pleasure of the commanding officer is the only standard by which the supplies are regulated; and it has sometimes happened that particular officers, either more attentive to the accommodation of the troops under their immediate command, than to the general convenience of the service, or unacquainted with the state of our resources, have taken steps of a very exceptionable nature for supplying their particular commands at the expence of the Army at large. Even the officers at some posts have been liberally furnished either from the public stores or from private ones by orders on public agents to pay for them, while those at others have seen their most pressing applications rejected. For my own part as there was no regular provision made, adequate to the wants of the officers in general, I have been deaf to their importunities, even when there have been a few articles in store. Congress will easily perceive how a discrimination of this kind must operate, and will feel the necessity of adopting some plan that will make the distributions more equal and uniform. This can only be done by having a proper head and regular subordination throughout the members with general regulations for the management of the department. I request to be informed if Mr. Mease is continued Clothier General.
The situation of the sixteen additional regiments has been all along the most disagreeable that can be immagined. They have been destitute of every advantage the other troops have enjoyed. The resignations from the extreme necessities of the officers have been numerous, and the spirit of resigning is now become almost universal. Every expedient that could operate upon their hopes, their patriotism, or their honor has been exhausted. The Regiments for want of a sufficent number of officers and for want of zeal in the few that remain are dwindling to nothing. Several of those, Gentlemen of sentiment and much attached to the service, lately waited upon me to represent their case. They stated their sufferings in terms the most affecting and supported by facts that could not be questioned—Their expressions of regret at finding themselves obliged to quit the Army had every appearance of genuineness. I prevailed upon them with great difficulty to suspend their determination a little longer to see whether some measures would not be adopted in their favor.
The resolve of the 15th March has hitherto had no operation nor will it in all probability answer the purpose for which it was intended. If the States should ever interest themselves in behalf of these Regiments—the mixture of different men from different States in the same Corps will make the supply very troublesome and precarious. I see no alternative but this—either Congress must make a special provision for them, or they must in a little time gradually dissolve. The Cavalry and part of the Artillery are upon a similar establishment. I am informed that some cloathing has been lately provided on continental account for the officers and are coming on to the Army, though I have had no regular information on the subject—If this should be true, it is requisite some particular direction should be given for their distribution; I shall be glad to receive the commands of Congress on the subject.
I have frequent applications from the officers for allowances of spirits; supported by a plea that it is done elsewhere. I am informed that the officers at Providence are supplied with rum at the rate of nine shilgs. gallon. I think it highly reasonable and necessary, that they should be supplied at a moderate rate proportioned to their pay; but as there is no authority for doing it, I do not think myself at liberty to adopt the measure; at the same time I should be happy to see so reasonable a request gratified, and the whole put upon an equal footing by some general regulation. They cannot possibly furnish themselves otherwise. If Congress should think proper to direct any allowance of this kind, it will perhaps be expedient to make it conditional, to be given when the stock in store will permit and liable to be suspended by the commanding officer. My situation, as the affair now stands, is delicate and disagreeable. The officers of this Army will not be satisfied with less indulgence than is enjoyed by those of the other troops. They may view the refusal on my part as too punctilious and rigid. This concurs with other reasons to make me anxious a speedy determination should take place, either to make the allowance general or prevent it everywhere. * * *
TO MAJOR BENJAMIN TALLMADGE.1
New Windsor, 27 June, 1779.
Your letter of yesterday came safe to my hands, and by the Dragoon, who was the bearer of it, I send you ten guineas for C—r.2 His successor, whose name I have no desire to be informed of, provided his intelligence is good and seasonably transmitted, should endeavor to hit upon some certain mode of conveying his informations quickly, for it is of little avail to be told of things after they have become matter of public notoriety and known to every body. This new agent should communicate his signature, and the private marks by which genuine papers are to be distinguished from counterfeits. There is a man on York Island, living at or near the North River, by the name of George Higday, who, I am told, hath given signal proofs of his attachment to us, and at the same time stands well with the enemy. If, upon inquiry, this is found to be the case, (and such caution should be used in investigating the matter as well on his own acct. as on that of Higday) he will be a fit instrument to convey intelligence to me, while I am on the West side of the North River, as he is enterprising and connected with people in Bergen county, who will assist in forming a chain to me, in any manner they shall agree on.
I do not know whom H— employs; but from H— I obtain intelligence; and his name and business should be kept profoundly secret, otherwise we not only lose the benefits derived from it, but may subject him to some unhappy fate. I observe what you say respecting your position at Bedford, and the fatigue of the Horse. With regard to the first, when Bedford was pointed out, it was descriptive only of a central place between the two Rivers, and as near the enemy as you could, with military prudence, take post for the purpose of covering the Inhabitants, and preventing the ravages of small parties. The judgment of the officer commanding is, under the idea just expressed, to direct the particular spot and choice of ground, which ought to be varied continually, while you are near enough the enemy to give assistance to the People. With respect to the second matter, I have only to add, that I do not wish to have the Horse unnecessarily exposed or fatigued; but if, in the discharge of accustomed duties, they should get worn down, there is no help for it. Colo. Moylan’s regiment is on its march to join you, which will render the duty easier, and ye Troops there more respectable. I wish you to use every method in your power, through H—and others, to obtain information of the enemy’s situation, and as far as it is to be come at designs. C—r speaks of the Enemy’s force up the River as not exceeding eight thousand men; but as I know he is mistaken, if he comprehends their whole force, I should be glad if his successor were cautioned against giving positive numbers by guess. This is deceptious; let him ascertain the particular corps, which can be no difficult matter to do, and he will soon, by taking a little pains indirectly, come at the strength of them and where they lye. I am, Sir, yours, &c.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL SULLIVAN.
New Windsor, 1 July, 1779.
I have just received a letter from Genl. Clinton at Canajoharie, which has filled me with inexpressible concern, as I apprehend the worst consequence to the Expedition under your command, from the measures, which have been pursued there. My intention, and which I thought sufficiently explained and known to you, was, that the Troops under the command of Genl. Clinton should be at Canajoharie and in the vicinity with Boats ready to proceed up the Mohawk River, or across to Otsego, as you should under a full consideration of all circumstances and information resolve on; and that, if the latter should be the choice, he should move rapidly over, quite light, with a sufficient stock of provisions and stores only to serve him till he could form his junction with you at Tioga, where every thing was to be provided.
Instead of this he had transported, and by the last accts. was transporting, Provisions and stores for his whole Brigade three months, and 220 or 30 Batteaux to receive them; by which means, in the place of having his design concealed till the moment of execution and forming his junction with you, in a manner by surprise, it is announced, the enemy watching him, and, instead of moving light, rapidly, and undiscovered, he goes encumbered with useless supplies, and has his defence weakened by the attention he must pay to convoy and the length of his line, at a time when more than probable, the whole force of the enemy will be employed to oppose him. I did not expressly require that Genl. Clinton, in case of his forming a junction with you at Tioga, should proceed without provisions and stores; but, from the whole scope and tenor of our several conversations on the subject, the difficulties and dangers that were apprehended in ye rout, the preparations that were making for the whole force on the Susquehanna, & other circumstances, I had not a doubt of its being fully understood, and took it for granted, when he was placed under your orders, that he would have been instructed accordingly.1 * * * I am, dear Sir, &c.
TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE.
New Windsor, 4 July, 1779.
My dear Marquis,
Since my last, which was written (to the best of my recollection, for not having my Papers with me I cannot have recourse to dates,) in March, both Armies continued quiet in their winter cantonments till about the first of May, when a detachment of about 2000 of the enemy, under the command of General Matthew, convoyed by Sir George Collier, made a sudden invasion of a neck of land, comprehending Portsmouth and Suffolk in Virginia, and after plundering and destroying the property (chiefly private) in those places, and stealing a number of negros, returned to New York, the moment they found the country rising in arms to oppose them.
This exploit was immediately followed by a movement of Sir Henry Clinton up the North River the beginning of June. What the real object of this expedition was, I cannot with certainty inform you. Our posts in the highlands were supposed to be his aim, because they were of importance to us, and consonant to his former plan for prosecuting the war; but whether upon a nearer approach he found them better provided and more difficult of access than he expected, or whether his only view was to cut off the communication between the East and the West side of the River below the highlands, I shall not undertake to decide—certain it is, however, that he came up in full force, disembarked at King’s ferry, and there began to fortify the points on each side, which to all intents and purposes are Islands, and by nature exceedingly strong.
This movement of the enemy and my sollicitude for the security of our defences on the river, induced me to march the Troops which were cantoned at Middlebrook, immediately to their support, and for the further purpose of strengthening the defences by additional works.—in this business I have been employed near three weeks. While the enemy have not been idle in establishing themselves as above. They have reinforced their main army with part of the garrison at Rhode Island.
General Sullivan commands an Expedition against the Six Nations, which, aided by Butler and Brandt, with their Tory Friends and some force from Canada, have greatly infested our Frontiers. He has already marched to the Susquehanna, with about 4000 men, all Continental soldiers, and I trust will destroy their settlements and extirpate them from the Country which more than probably will be affected by their flight, as it is not a difficult matter for them to take up their Beds and walk.
We have received very favorable accounts from South Carolina, by which it appears that the British Troops before Charlestown met with a defeat and are in a very perilous situation. We have this matter from such a variety of hands that it scarcely admits of a doubt, and yet no official information is received of it.
When, my dear Marquis, shall I embrace you again? Shall I ever do it?—or has the charms of the amiable and lovely Marchioness—or the smiles and favors of your Prince, withdrawn you from us entirely? At all times and under all circumstances, I have the honor to be, with the greatest personal regard, attachment and affection.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
New Windsor, 9 July, 1779.
On the 1st Instant I transmitted your Excellency a Copy of a Letter I had received from General Gates, advising that a number of Vessels with Troops, had left Newport and directed their course up the Sound. I had previously on the 27th, from the intelligence obtained through different Channels that the Enemy intended to draw a part or the whole of their Troops from Rhode Island, requested him in case of the former event to detach a proportionable part of his force to this Army—and of the latter to march himself with the whole of it. Upon receiving General Gates’s Letter of the 25th, which ascertained the sailing of part of the Enemy’s force from Newport, I wrote him, if he had not detached any troops from his command in consequence of my requisitions of the 27th, and if the detachment of the Enemy which he had mentioned to have sailed, had not returned or were not acting in his vicinity, to dispatch Glover’s Brigade. I was induced to these measures from a view of the comparative strength of the two Armies in this Quarter—from the precarious if not dangerous situation Our’s would be in, if the Enemy’s should be reinforced without an equal augmentation on our part—from a strong probability that they had some serious attempt in contemplation this way, & from the little prospect after such a diminution of their force there, of their acting otherwise than defensively in that Quarter—or of General Gates’s being able to act offensively against them—if no part of his command were withdrawn. The detachment from Newport disembarked at White Stone and according to some accounts came as far as Hell gate.
On the 4th instant the Enemy embarked a Body of Troops at Frog’s Neck on the Sound, consisting, from the best information, of grenadiers, light infantry, and a few Hessians, amounting to about Eighteen Hundred, tho some reports make them more, and proceeded Eastward. I did not receive intelligence of this till the afternoon of the 7th, having been absent from Head-Quarters from the morning of the preceding day, on a visit to our out-posts below, and those lately established by the Enemy; when, from an apprehension that they might intend a sudden incursion into the State of Connecticut, I despatched an Express to His Excellency Governor Trumbull, and to the Commanding Officer of Glover’s brigade, advising them of the movement, and directing the latter to proceed by some rout not far from the Sound, that he might with greater facility form a junction with the militia, and co-operate with them in case the Enemy should make a descent. I have not yet heard what is the object of this party: but we have it by report, that they have landed at New Haven, and most probably for the purpose of plundering, and perhaps burning, as these appear to form a considerable part of their present system of war. Besides plundering and burning, another object may be to distress and injure the harvest by alarming the militia and calling them out for the protection of the Coast.
Enclosed Your Excellency will receive a copy of a Letter from Colo. Sheldon to General Heath, containing an account of a skirmish between a detachment of his Regiment and a body of the Enemy’s Horse on the morning of the 2d, near Bedford, and of their destroying a meeting and two or three dwelling-Houses.1 The main body of the Enemy at present is at and in the vicinity of Phillipsburg. At Verplanck’s and Stony points they have sufficient Garrisons to occupy the works, which appear from a near view to be very strong, particularly those on the latter. I am exceedingly mortified, that the circumstances of the army in respect to numbers oblige me to a mere defensive plan, and will not suffer me to pursue such measures, as the public good may seem to require and the public expectation to demand. I hope it will be remembered, that the army has been diminished by the expiration of the term of service of a number of the troops, that it is daily lessening from the same cause, that a considerable part of our remaining force is detached upon the western expedition, and that scarcely a single man has taken the field from any of the States, except New York and Virginia, and that these are employed in other quarters. * * *
From the small exertions that have been made, I have but little hope that the Battalions will be filled, or even made respectable, tho it is a matter infinitely interesting. The business unhappily has been taken up so late by the particular States, that the levies, or recruits, who may be raised, will not be of half the service that they ought. Instead of being in the Field at the opening of the Campaign, they will not join the army till towards the close, or at least, before the middle of it, and, the greater part of their time, will be in Winter-Quarters. * * * I am, &c.1
TO BRIGADIER-GENERAL WAYNE.2
New Windsor, July 9th, 1779.
While the enemy are making excursions to distress the country, it has a very disagreeable aspect to remain in a state of inactivity on our part. The reputation of the army, and the good of the service, seem to exact some attempt from it. The importance of Stony Point to the enemy makes it infinitely desirable, that this post could be the object. The works are formidable, but perhaps on a fuller examination they may be found accessible. A deserter yesterday informed me, that there was a sandy beach on the south side, running along the flank of the works, and only obstructed by a slight abatis, which might afford an easy and safe approach to a body of troops.
I wish you to take every step in your power to ascertain this, and to gain a more accurate knowledge of the position in general, and particularly on the flanks and in the rear. Would it answer to send in a trusty, intelligent fellow from you in the character of a deserter, on some plan that might enable him to return with expedition? I beg you to inform yourself all you can, and to give me your opinion of the practicability of an attempt upon this post. If it is undertaken, I should conceive it ought to be done by way of surprise in the night. I am, dear Sir, &c.
TO BRIGADIER-GENERAL WAYNE.
New Windsor, July 10th, 1779.
Immediately upon receipt of Your Letter of this date, I ordered the Quartermaster-General to furnish the Espontoons you wrote for, and presume you will get them in a day or two. My ideas of the Enterprise in contemplation are these: that it should be attempted by the Light Infantry only, which should march under cover of night and with the utmost secrecy to the Enemy’s lines, securing every person they find, to prevent discovery. Between one and two hundred chosen men and officers I conceive fully sufficient for the surprize; and apprehend the approach should be along the Water on the South side, crossing the Beach and entering at the abatis. This party is to be preceded by a Vanguard of prudent and determined men, well commanded, who are to remove obstructions, secure the sentries, and drive in the guards. They are to advance the whole of them with fixed Bayonets and muskets unloaded. The officers commanding them are to know precisely what Batteries, or particular parts of the line, they are respectively to possess, that confusion and the consequences of indecision may be avoided. These parties should be followed by the main body at a small distance, for the purpose of support and making good the advantages which may be gained, or to bring them off in case of repulse and disappointment. Other parties may advance to the works (but not so as to be discovered till the conflict is begun) by the way of the causeway and River on the north, if practicable, as well for the purpose of distracting the Enemy in their defence, as to cut off their retreat. These parties may be small, unless the access and approaches should be very easy and safe.
The Three approaches here mentioned should be well reconnoitred beforehand, and by persons of observation. Single men in the night will be more likely to ascertain facts, than the best glasses in the day. A white feather, or cockade, or some other visible badge of distinction for the night, should be worn by our Troops, and a Watchword agreed on to distinguish friends from Foes. If success should attend the Enterprise, measures should be instantly taken to prevent, if practicable, the retreat of the garrison by water, or to annoy them as much as possible if they attempt it; and the guns should be immediately turned against the shipping and Verplanck’s point, and covered if possible from the Enemy’s fire.
Secrecy is so much more essential to these kind of enterprises, than numbers, that I should not think it advisable to employ any other than the light troops. If a surprize takes place, they are fully competent to the business; if it does not, numbers will avail little. As it is in the power of a single Deserter to betray the design, defeat the project, and involve the party in difficulties and danger, too much caution cannot be used to conceal the intended enterprise till the latest hour from all but the principal officers of your corps, and from the men till the moment of execution. A knowledge of your intention, ten minutes previously obtained, will blast all your hopes; for which reason a small detachment, composed of men whose fidelity you can rely on, under the care of a Judicious Officer, should guard every avenue through the marsh to the Enemy’s works, by which our Deserters or the spies can pass, and prevent all intercourse. The usual time for exploits of this kind is a little before day, for which reason a vigilant officer is then more on the watch. I therefore recommend a midnight hour. I had in view to attempt Verplanck’s point at the same instant, that your operations should commence at Stony Point; but the incertainty of coöperating in point of time, and the hazard which would be thereby run of defeating the attempt on Stony point, which is infinitely more important, (the other being dependent,) has induced me to suspend that operation.
These are my general ideas of the plan for a surprize; but you are at liberty to depart from them in every instance, where you may think they may be improved, or changed for the better. A Dark night, and even a rainy one, (if you can find the way,) will contribute to your success. The officers, in these night marches, should be extremely attentive to keep their men together, as well for the purpose of guarding against desertion to the enemy, as to prevent skulking. As it is a part of the plan, if the surprize should succeed, to make use of the enemy’s Cannon against their shipping and their post on the other side, it will be well to have a small detachment of artillery with you to serve them. I have sent an order to the park for this purpose, and, to cover the design, have ordered down a couple of light field-pieces. When you march, you can leave the pieces behind. So soon as you have fixed your plan and the time of execution, I shall be obliged to you to give me notice. I shall immediately order you a reinforcement of light Infantry and Espontoons.
I am, dear Sir, &c.
TO GOVERNOR TRUMBULL.
I am just honored with your letter of the 10th. Mine of this morning, which will probably reach you before this, will inform you that on hearing of the enemy’s movement from below, I had detached a body of troops under Major-General Heath to counteract them.1 It gives me pain, that I have it not in my power to afford more effectual succor to the country; but the smallness of our force obliges me to confine my attention so entirely to one essential point, that I can do little more than lament the depredations of the enemy at a distance. I am persuaded your Excellency will make every allowance for the incompetency of the means put into my hands. The security of the communication of this river is of so great importance, and the enemy have such a facility, by the assistance of water transportation, of moving from one place to another, that we dare not withdraw any considerable part of our force from this post, but with an embarrassing degree of caution. It is very probable in the present case, that one principal object of the operations on your coast may be to draw us off from the River, to facilitate an attack upon it. The movement towards Horseneck has more particularly this aspect. It is however very likely, that the detachment under Tryon may go on with its ravages on your coast, to disturb the inhabitants in the occupations of harvest, by which they no doubt do us very serious injury. I believe the accounts you have received rather overrate his force. From my best information, it consists of Six Regiments, the four that came from Rhode Island and two others, one Regiment of Anspach, Fanning’s, 7th, 22d, 23d, and 54th British. These cannot exceed, hardly equal, two thousand.
I thank your Excellency for the proclamation and answer.1 The first is truly ridiculous and must tend to incense rather than intimidate; the last is laconic, but to the purpose. I have the honor to be, &c.
TO BRIGADIER-GENERAL WAYNE.
Head-Qrs.,New Windsor, July 14, 1779.
I have reflected on the advantages and disadvantages of delaying the proposed attempt, and I do not know but the latter preponderate. You may therefore carry it into execution to-morrow night, as you desire, unless some new motive or better information should induce you to think it best to defer it. You are at liberty to choose between the different plans on which we have conversed. But as it is important to have every information we can procure, if you could manage in the mean time to see Major Lee, it may be useful. He has been so long near the spot, and has taken so much pains to inform himself critically concerning the post, that I imagine he may be able to make you acquainted with some further details. Your interview must be managed with caution, or it may possibly raise suspicion.1 I am, dear Sir, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Head Quarters,New Windsor,
On the 16th instant I had the honor to inform Congress of a successful attack upon the enemy’s post at Stony Point, on the preceding night, by Brigadier-General Wayne and the corps of light infantry under his command. The ulterior operations, in which we have been engaged, have hitherto put it out of my power to transmit the particulars of this interesting event. They will now be found in the enclosed report, which I have received from General Wayne. To the encomiums he has deservedly bestowed on the officers and men under his command, it gives me pleasure to add, that his own conduct throughout the whole of this arduous enterprise merits the warmest approbation of Congress. He improved upon the plan recommended by me, and executed it in a manner that does signal honor to his judgment and to his bravery. In a critical moment of the assault, he received a flesh-wound in the head with a musket-ball, but continued leading on his men with unshaken firmness.
I now beg leave for the private satisfaction of Congress, to explain the motives which induced me to direct the attempt. In my further letters I have pointed out the advantages, which the enemy derived from the possession of this post and the one on the opposite side, and the inconveniences resulting from it to us. To deprive them of the former, and remove the latter, were sufficient inducements to endeavor to dispossess them. The necessity of doing something to satisfy the expectations of the people, and reconcile them to the defensive plan we are obliged to pursue, and to the apparent inactivity which our situation imposes upon us; the value of the acquisition in itself, with respect to the men, artillery, and stores, which composed the garrison; the effect it would have upon the successive operations of the campaign, and the check it would give to the depredations of the enemy at the present season; all these motives concurred to determine me to the undertaking. The certain advantages of success, even if not so extensive as might be wished, would, at all events, be very important; the probable disadvantages of a failure were comparatively inconsiderable, and, on the plan that was adopted, could amount to little more than the loss of a small number of men.
After reconnoitring the post myself, and collecting all the information I could get of its strength and situation, I found, that, without hazarding a greater loss than we were able to afford, and with less likelihood of success, the attempt to carry it could only be by way of surprise. I therefore resolved on this mode, and gave my instructions accordingly, as contained in No. 2, in hopes that Verplanck’s point might fall in consequence of the reduction of the other. Dispositions were made for the purpose, which unluckily did not succeed. The evening appointed for the attack, I directed Major-General McDougall to put two Brigades under marching orders to be moved down towards Verplanck’s as soon as he should receive intelligence of the success of the attempt on this side, and requested General Wayne to let his despatches to me pass through General McDougall, that he might have the earliest advice of the event. But through some misconception, they came directly on to Head-Quarters, which occasioned a loss of several hours. The next morning, Major-General Howe was sent to take the command of those troops, with orders to advance to the vicinity of the enemy’s works, and open batteries against them. It was hoped that this might either awe them into a surrender under the impression of what had happened on the other side, or prepare the way for an assault. But some accidental delays, in bringing on the heavy cannon and trenching tools necessary for an operation of this kind, unavoidably retarded its execution, till the approach of the enemy’s main body made it too late. General Howe, to avoid being intercepted, found himself under a necessity of relinquishing his project and retiring to a place of security. I did not unite the two attacks at the same time and in the same manner, because this would have rendered the enterprise more complex, more liable to suspicion, and less likely success, for want of an exact coöperation, which could hardly have been expected.1
When I came to examine the post at Stony point, I found it would require more men to maintain it, than we could afford, without incapacitating the army for other operations. In the opinion of the engineer, corresponding with my own and that of all the general officers present, not less than 1500 men would be requisite for its complete defence; and, from the nature of the works, which were open towards the River, a great deal of labor and expense must have been incurred, and much time employed, to make them defensible by us. The enemy depending on their shipping to protect the rear, had constructed the works solely against an attack by land. We should have had to apprehend equally an attack by water, and must have enclosed the post. While we were doing this, the whole army must have been in the vicinity, exposed to the risk of a general action on terms, which it would not be our interest to court, and out of reach to assist in carrying on the fortifications at West Point, or to support them in case of necessity. These considerations made it an unanimous sentiment to evacuate the post, remove the cannon and stores, and destroy the works, which was accomplished on the night of the 18th, one piece of heavy cannon only excepted. For want of proper tackling within reach to transport the cannon by land, we were obliged to send them to the fort by water. The movements of the enemy’s vessels created some uneasiness on their account, and induced me to keep one of the pieces for their protection, which finally could not be brought off without risking more for its preservation than it was worth. We also lost a galley, which was ordered down to cover the boats. She got under way on her return the afternoon of the 18th. The enemy began a severe and continued cannonade upon her, from which having received some injury, which disabled her for proceeding, she was run ashore. Not being able to get her afloat till late in the flood tide, and one or two of the enemy’s vessels under favor of the night passed above her, she was set on fire and blown up.
Disappointed in our attempt on the other side, we may lose some of the principal advantages hoped for from the undertaking. The enemy may reëstablish the post at Stony point, and still continue to interrupt that communication. Had both places been carried, though we should not have been able to occupy them ourselves, there is great reason to believe the enemy would hardly have mutilated their main body a second time, and gone through the same trouble to regain possession of posts where they had been so unfortunate. But though we may not reap all the benefits, which might have followed, those we do reap are very important. The diminution of their force, by the loss of so many men, will be felt in their present circumstances. The artillery and stores will be a valuable acquisition to us, especially in our scarcity of heavy cannon for the forts. The event will have a good effect upon the minds of the people, give our troops greater confidence in themselves, and depress the spirits of the enemy proportionably. If they resolve to reëstablish the post, they must keep their force collected for the purpose. This will serve to confine their ravages within a narrower compass, and to a part of the country already exhausted. They must lose part of the remainder of the campaign in rebuilding the works; and, when they have left a garrison for its defence, their main body, by being lessened, must act with so much the less energy, and so much the greater caution.
They have now brought their whole force up the River, and yesterday landed a body at Stony Point. It is supposed not impossible, that General Clinton may endeavor to retaliate by a stroke upon West Point; and his having stripped New York as bare as possible, and brought up a number of small boats, are circumstances that give a color to the surmise. Though all this may very well be resolved into different motives, prudence requires that our dispositions should have immediate reference to the security of this post; and I have therefore drawn our force together, so as that the whole may act in its defence on an emergency. To-morrow I remove my own quarters to the fort.
It is probable Congress will be pleased to bestow some marks of consideration upon those officers, who distinguished themselves upon this occasion. Every officer and man of the corps deserves great credit; but there were particular ones, whose situation placed them foremost in danger, and made their conduct most conspicuous. Lieutenant-Colonel Fleury1 and Major Stewart commanded the two attacks. Lieutenants Gibbons and Knox2 commanded the advanced parties, or forlorn hopes; and all acquitted themselves as well as it was possible. These officers have a claim to be more particularly noticed. In any other service promotion would be the proper reward, but in ours it would be injurious. I take the liberty to recommend in preference some honorary present, especially to the field-officers. A brevet captaincy to the other two, as it will have no operation in regimental rank, may not be amiss.
Congress will perceive, that some pecuniary rewards were promised by General Wayne to his corps. This was done with my concurrence; and in addition to them, as a greater incitement to their exertions, they were also promised the benefit of whatever was taken in the fort. The artillery and stores are converted to the use of the public; but, in compliance with my engagements, it will be necessary to have them appraised, and the amount paid to the captors in money. I hope my conduct in this instance will not be disapproved. Mr. Archer,1 who will have the honor of delivering these despatches, is a volunteer Aid to General Wayne, and a gentleman of merit. His zeal, activity, and spirit are conspicuous upon every occasion. I am, &c.
P. S. Congress may possibly be at a loss what to do with Mr. Archer. A captain’s brevet, or commission in the army at large, will be equal to his wishes; and he deserves encouragement on every account. Lest there should be any misapprehension, as to what is mentioned about the manner of sending despatches through General McDougall, I beg leave to be more explicit. I directed General Wayne, when he marched of his ground, to send his despatches in the first instance to the officer of his baggage-guard, left at the encampment from which he marched, who was to inform his messenger where I was to be found. I left word with this officer to forward the Messenger to General McDougall, and I desired General McDougall to open the despatches. The Messenger, who was Capt. Fishbourn, came directly on, either through misconception in General Wayne, in the officer of the guard, or in himself.
I forgot to mention that two flags and two standards were taken, the former belonging to the garrison, and the latter to the seventeenth regiment. These shall be sent to Congress by the first convenient opportunity.1
TO JOSEPH REED.
West Point, July 29, 1779.
I have a pleasure in acknowledging the receipt of your obliging favor of the 15th inst., and in finding by it, that the author of the Queries, “Political and Military,”2 has had no great cause to exult in the favorable reception of them by the public. Without a clue, I should have been at no loss to trace the malevolent writer; but I have seen a history of the transaction, and felt a pleasure mingled with pain at the narration. To stand well in the estimation of one’s country is a happiness, that no rational creature can be insensible of. To be pursued, first under the mask of friendship, and, when disguise would suit no longer, as an open calumniator, with gross misrepresentation and self-known falsehoods, carries an alloy, which no temper can bear with perfect composure.
The motives, which actuate this gentleman, are better understood by himself than me. If he can produce a single instance, in which I have mentioned his name, after his tryal commenced, where it was in my power to avoid it, and, when it was not, where I have done it with the smallest degree of acrimony or disrespect, I will consent that the world shall view my character in as disreputable a light, as he wishes to place it. What cause, then, there is for such a profusion of venom, as he is emitting upon all occasions, unless by an act of public duty, in bringing him to tryal at his own solicitation, I have disappointed him and raised his ire; or, conceiving that, in proportion as he can darken the shades of my character, he illuminates his own;—whether these, I say, or motives yet more dark and hidden, govern him, I shall not undertake to decide; nor have I time to inquire into them at present.
If I had ever assumed the character of a military genius and the officer of experience; if, under these false colors, I had solicited the command I was honored with; or if, after my appointment, I had presumptuously driven on, under the sole guidance of my own judgment and self-will, and misfortunes, the result of obstinacy and misconduct, not of necessity, had followed, I should have thought myself a proper object for the lash, not only of his, but of the pen of every other writer, and a fit subject for public resentment. But when it is well known that the command was in a manner forced upon me, that I accepted it with the utmost diffidence, from a consciousness that it required greater abilities and more experience than I possessed, to conduct a great military machine, embarrassed as I knew ours must be by a variety of complex circumstances, and as it were but little better than a mere chaos; and when nothing more was promised on my part, than has been most inviolably performed; it is rather grating to pass over in silence charges, which may impress the uninformed, tho others know, that these charges have neither reason nor truth to support them, and that a simple narrative of facts would defeat all his assertions, notwithstanding they are made with an effrontery, which few men do, and, for the honor of human nature, none ought to possess.
If this gentleman is envious of my station, and conceives I stand in his way to preferment, I can assure him, in most solemn terms, that the first wish of my soul is to return to that peaceful retirement, and domestick ease and happiness, from whence I came. To this end all my labors have been directed, and for this purpose have I been more than four years a perfect slave, endeavoring, under as many embarrassing circumstances as ever fell to one man’s lot to encounter, and as pure motives as ever man was influenced by, to promote the cause and service I had embarked in.
You may form a pretty good judgment of my prospect of a brilliant campaign, and of the figure I shall cut in it, when I inform you, that, excepting about 400 recruits from the State of Massachusetts (a portion of which I am told are children, hired at about 1500 dollars each for 9 months’ service), I have had no reinforcement to this army since last campaign, while our numbers have been, and now are, diminishing daily by the expiring terms of men’s services, to say nothing of the natural waste by sickness, death, and desertion. Discouraging as all this is, I feel more from the state of our currency, and the little attention, which hitherto appears to have been paid to our finances, than from the smallness of our army; and yet, (Providence having so often taken us up, when bereft of other hope,) I trust we shall not fail even in this. The present temper and disposition of the people to facilitate a loan, to discountenance speculation, and to appreciate the money, is a happy presage of resulting good, and ought to be cherished by every possible means, not repugnant to good order and government. With you I conceive, that great events are comprised in the next six months; and wish I had such information as would carry me along with you in opinion, that Spain has declared in our favor. But, having no knowledge of facts to ground such a belief on, I am apprehensive that the natural sloth of one court, and the intrigues and artifices of the other, will keep things in a state of negotiation, till the effect of the present exertion of G. B. this campaign is known, and possibly a new scene opened to our view.
The public are already possessed of the little military occurrences of this Quarter. I need not repeat them. Some considerable movement of the enemy is in agitation, but of what nature, and where pointed, I have not yet been able to discover. Lord Cornwallis is arrived, and a number of troops, (it is said) is hourly expected. My respectful complimts. attend Mrs. Reed, and the ladies of yr. family. With very great esteem and regard, I am, dear Sir, &c.1
end of vol. vii.
[1 ]Washington had on the 8th laid before the committee “a few imperfect minutes of those heads which will require your attention.” These minutes and his running comments, were:
[1 ]The above suggestions, respecting the commissary of prisoners, and the several departments of the army, were confirmed by a resolve of Congress.—Journals, January 23d.
[1 ]“From a late letter of Gen’l McIntosh to myself, and several of the Board of War, I find that he has been so much distressed for provision, that he has been obliged suddenly to disband all the militia that were in service, and seems to be very apprehensive that he shall with difficulty subsist the two Continental Regiments and a few Independent companies thro’ the winter.”—Washington to the President of Congress, 30 January, 1779. The Commissary General of Purchases claimed that the Western department was not under his direction.
[1 ]“I am exceedingly sorry to find by a letter from General Varnum of the 29th ulto., That a spirit of Mutiny has made its appearance among the troops under your command. I am convinced this does not originate with the common Soldiers and therefore I would wish that every possible endeavor should be made use of to trace the evil to the fountain head, that the Agitators may, if discovered be made examples. Genl. Varnum informs me that he quelled the Rioters by fair words before they had proceeded to any great lengths. This may have been prudent in the first instant, but I beg you may keep a very strict watch upon their future conduct, and if you find the least appearance of another attempt of the same kind punish those who are the movers instantly and severely. The depreciation of our Currency and the advance of necessaries are made the ostensible reasons for these disturbances. These are evils which are felt by all, but by none less than the common soldier who is intirely fed and chiefly cloathed by the public. I have not the least doubt but if the officers are attentive to the first emotions among the Soldiers, and act with spirit and firmness upon the occasion that all tumults will subside and good order and discipline again prevail.”—Washington to General Sullivan, 14 February, 1779.
[1 ]The President of Congress replied:—“The opinion, that greater advantage results from communicating important events to the people, in an authentic way, than by unauthorized reports, is certainly just, though often neglected. The intelligence alluded to is unfortunately of such a nature, or rather so circumstanced, as to render secrecy necessary. As Congress, with the consent of the Minister of France, have directed it to be communicated to you, further remarks will be unnecessary. Dr. Witherspoon, who lately returned to Jersey, promised to do it in a personal conference.”—MS. Letter, March 3d.
[1 ]A party of British troops landed near Elizabethtown, on the 28th of February, and succeeded in reaching the house of Governor Livingston. Fortunately he had left home several hours before, and was at the house of a friend a few miles distant, although his family were at home. The British officer seized some of the Governor’s papers and carried them off, but no acts of violence were committed. A few of the houses were burned in the village. See the particulars in Sedgwick’s Life of William Livingston, p. 322.
[1 ]A similar letter was sent to Governor Clinton of New York.
[1 ]The command was offered to Gates as he was the senior officer; but he declined, saying: “Last night I had the honor of your Excellency’s letter. The man, who undertakes the Indian service, should enjoy youth and strength; requisites I do not possess. It therefore grieves me, that your Excellency should offer me the only command, to which I am entirely unequal. In obedience to your command, I have forwarded your letter to General Sullivan, and, that he may not be one moment detained, I have desired him to leave the command with General Glover, until I arrive in Providence, which will be in a few days. You may be assured of my inviolable secrecy, and that your other directions shall be fulfilled.”—Boston, March 16th.
[2 ]“Nothing will contribute more to our success in the quarter where we really intend to strike than alarming the enemy in a contrary one, and drawing their attention that way. To do this, you may drop hints of an expedition to Canada by way of Coos. This will be the more readily believed, as a thing of the kind was really once in agitation and some magazines formed in consequence, which the enemy are acquainted with. You may also speak of the probability of a French fleet’s making its appearance in the spring in the river St. Lawrence to co-operate with us. It will be a great point gained if we can, by false alarms, keep the force at present in Canada from affording any timely assistance to the savages, refugees, and those people against whom the blow is levelled. I would wish you to keep the motives of your joining to head-quarters a secret, because if it is known that an officer of your rank is to take a command to the westward, it will be immediately concluded that the object must be considerable.”—Washington to Major-General Sullivan, 6 March, 1779.
[1 ]The Marquis de Lafayette had written from Boston on board the Alliance, January 11th:—“The sails are just going to be hoisted, my dear General, and I have only time to take my last leave of you. I may now be certain, that Congress do not intend to send any thing more by me. Farewell, my dear General. I hope your French friends will ever be dear to you. I hope I shall soon see you again, and tell you myself with what emotions I now leave the land you inhabit, and with what affection and respect I shall ever be your sincere friend.”
[1 ]By a recent resolve, Congress had invested General Washington with full power to negotiate at his discretion a cartel of exchange, comprehending the convention troops and prisoners of every other description, to fix and conclude the terms of exchange, and to appoint commissioners for the purpose. In the same resolve it was also declared, that the acts and stipulations of the commissioners of the two parties, when ratified and confirmed by the respective Commanders-in-chief, should be final and conclusive.—Journals, March 5th.
[1 ]By the resolution of the 23d of January, Congress had authorized the Commander-in-chief to offer a bounty of two hundred dollars for every soldier, who should enlist to serve during the war, in addition to the usual bounties of land and clothing. Enlistments had begun in camp on this principle among the troops, whose term of service was to expire in the month of June following. The mode of enlistment was afterwards modified in such a manner, as to obviate the difficulties mentioned above. It was referred to the respective States to fill up their quotas in such a mode, as they should think proper, and a bounty of two hundred dollars was granted from the Continental treasury for each recruit that should enlist for the war; and in case a State should grant a greater bounty, the amount of two hundred dollars was to be put to the credit of the State for every new recruit.
[1 ]The new bounty offered by Congress did not have the effect to abolish nor even to diminish State bounties. An act of the legislature of New Jersey, for completing the three battalions of the State, allowed two hundred and fifty dollars for each new recruit, in addition to the bounty of clothing, land, and two hundred dollars, given by Congress.—Wilson’s Laws of New Jersey, p. 84. The legislature of Virginia, by an act passed on the 3d of May, offered a bounty of seven hundred and fifty dollars for every soldier that should enlist to serve through the war, and also a suit of clothes once a year, and one hundred acres of unappropriated land within the State. The bounty and clothing given by Congress were to be deducted from the above amount, and reserved by the State. Provision was also made for pensions to those, who should be disabled in the service, or relief to their families in case of death before their term of enlistment should expire.—Hening’s Statues at Large, vol. x., p. 23.
[1 ]Read in Congress, March 18th.
[1 ]Mr. Laurens had written: “Our affairs in the southern department are more favorable, than we had considered them a few days ago; nevertheless, the country is greatly distressed, and will be more so, unless further reinforcements are sent to its relief. Had we arms for three thousand such black men, as I could select in Carolina, I should have no doubt of success in driving the British out of Georgia, and subduing East Florida, before the end of July.”—March 16th.
[2 ]On this topic Mr. Laurens had said: “Monsieur Gerard intends a journey through New Jersey in a few days. Where he is going, is a subject not to be talked of at present, and yet it is two to one, Sir, that you have heard it.”
[1 ]“The keeping the coasts of the enemy constantly alarmed,” wrote Lord George Germaine to Sir Henry Clinton, “the destroying of their ships and magazines, and by that means preventing the rebels becoming a formidable maritime power and obstructing the commerce of his Majesty’s subjects, are objects of so much importance, that a war of this sort, carried on with spirit and humanity, would probably induce the rebellious provinces to return to their allegiance; at least, it would prevent their sending out that swarm of privateers, the success of which has enabled and encouraged the rebels to persevere in their revolt.”—November 4, 1778.
[2 ]“When I had the Honor of addressing Your Excellency, on the 11th Instant, I transmitted some intelligence I had just received from General Maxwell, respecting Admiral Gambier’s preparing to sail from New York, and suggesting New London to be the object of the expedition. How far events may justify this suggestion, I cannot determine; however, by advices which came to hand this evening from a correspondent, from whom I have my best intelligence, I am informed, that 16 transports with a flat-boat each, a sloop-of-war of 16 Guns, & 5 or 6 strong privateers, went up the Sound a few days ago with a view of joining the Scorpion & Thames of 20 guns. The advices also say, that the Admiral in a 64, with a sloop-of-war, sailed from the Hook about the same time, with a pilot acquainted with Long Island and the Sound, that the supposed design of the expedition is to take the Frigates at New London, and that their determination now is to plunder and distress the coast. There are accounts, besides these, that Troops have been drawing towards the east end of the Island, and some flat-boats building under the direction of Sir William Erskine. It is added, that General Clinton is gone there himself. General Putnam is apprized of these movements, but it will be impossible for us to prevent their descents in many instances.”—Washington to the President of Congress, 26 March, 1779.
[1 ]The draft of this letter, in Washington’s own hand, contained the following paragraph, struck out by the pen: “I am clearly in sentiment with you, that Congress ought to be left totally unembarrassed by the interference of particular States, even if negotiation is actively begun, or proposed on the part of Great Britain. But if it should not, the resolutions you speak of are not only unseasonable, but pernicious in the extreme.”
[1 ]Philadelphia, April 6th.—“Mr. Jay presents his compliments to General Washington, and encloses an extract from a letter in a certain degree interesting.”
[1 ]The following extracts from the letters here referred to were copied, and sent to the President of Congress with the above letter.
[1 ]Dated March 6th and 16th. See above, pp. 354.
[1 ]In regard to Gates’ letter to Congress, Mr. Jay wrote: “The impression attempted to be made has not taken. It passed without a single remark. Your friends thought it merited nothing but silence and neglect. The same reason induced me to take notice of it in my answer. I have perused the several papers with which you favored me. The delicacy, candor, and temper diffused through your letters, form a strong contrast to the evasions and designs observable in some others. Gratitude ought to have attached a certain gentleman to the friend who raised him; a spurious ambition, however, has, it seems, made him your enemy.”—April 21st.
[1 ]General Clinton had received a letter from General Haldimand, dated at Quebec on the 26th of May, expressing great apprehensions that an attack on Canada was meditated, as batteaux were building near Skenesborough, and he feared small parties would cross the line and unite in the heart of the country. His whole amount of forces, from Lake Ontario to Quebec, he said, did not exceed sixteen hundred regular British troops, and upon the greatest emergency he could not assemble more than one thousand men. He added, that since the war with France there had been a change in the disposition of the Canadians, that the Germans were unfit by nature and education for the American service, that they had been necessarily dispersed at small posts, and had thus in some degree imbibed the spirit of the inhabitants, and that frequent desertions had taken place. In this state of things he thought a reinforcement of two thousand men absolutely necessary to ensure the safety of Canada. Sir Henry Clinton proposed to send them as soon as a convoy could be procured.
[1 ]The marine affairs of the United States were under the charge of a committee, consisting of a delegate from each State. It was of course fluctuating, as new members were constantly added, in the place of those who had resigned or retired from Congress. Thus there was neither consistency nor a system of action. Very few of the members had any knowledge of naval concerns. Party views and local interests contributed to divide the counsels of the Board, and to prevent the adoption of efficient and beneficial measures. These facts are enough to account for any irregularities and want of method and energy in that department.—Jay to Washington, 26 April, 1779.
[1 ]To Joseph Reed, April 20th.—“I have, in obedience to a resolve of Congress, directed a court-martial to be held in this camp, on the 1st of May next, for the trial of Major-General Arnold, on the first, second, third, and fifth charges exhibited against him by the Supreme Executive Council of the State of Pennsylvania. You will therefore be pleased to furnish the court, at the above time, with the proper evidence in support of the charges.”
[1 ]Clarkson and Franks, who were with the Southern army.
[1 ]“The misfortunes which have happened along the coast since withdrawing the guards are such as in our present circumstances we cannot prevent, if it is to be done by parties from the Army;—To cover a sea coast of 1500 miles from the enemy’s vessels; and our western frontiers of the same extent from Indian incursions, is impracticable; and yet I am called upon every hour to do it.—The levies designed to fill up the quotas of the respective States, are raising but slowly if at all—Some of them are ordered on remote service—while at the same time large detachments are making from the main Army to different parts. These things render it impossible to give that attention to the Coast which we could wish, and at the same moment secure the main force from defeat or insult, and protect those posts which are of the last importance to the common safety and communication. Measures must therefore be taken by the several States for their defence, or the prevention of petty inroads of the enemy, by proper guards of militia, till our situation will permit us to give them assistance from the Army.”—Washington to Major-General Putnam, 14 May, 1779.
[1 ]M. Gerard was now on a visit to the camp, to which place he had come to consult General Washington respecting the operations of Count d’Estaing’s fleet. In consequence of the suggestions of Congress on this subject, M. Gerard had written to Count d’Estaing, then in the West Indies, proposing a combined expedition against Georgia, and such other operations on the American seaboard as circumstances should point out. Count d’Estaing replied, that he expected to be on the coast of Carolina by the end of May, and to proceed thence to the Delaware River. It was his design to attack Halifax, and afterwards Newfoundland, if provisions and a sufficient number of men could be furnished by the United States. M. Gerard consulted the President of Congress and two or three members before he went to camp. The question was frankly discussed by General Washington, but he was satisfied the plan could not succeed. It was impossible for him to spare troops for such an expedition from the small army with which he was obliged to defend the country against the English on one side and the savages on the other. The English had eleven thousand men in New York, and five thousand at Rhode Island. Militia could not be relied on for an enterprise like that meditated against Halifax, and regular troops could not be supplied without abandoning the plan of the campaign and leaving the country exposed.—MS. Letter from M. Gerard to Count Vergennes, May 6th.
[1 ]Read in Congress, May 7th.
[1 ]Read in Congress, May 8th. Referred to the committee appointed to prepare an address to the several States, to which are added Mr. S. Adams and Mr. Burke.
[1 ]“You give an affecting summary of the causes of the national evils we feel, and the still greater we have reason to apprehend. To me it appears that our affairs are in a very delicate situation; and what is not the least to be lamented is, that many people think they are in a very flourishing way, and seem in a great measure insensible to the danger with which we are threatened if Britain should be able to make a vigorous campaign in America this summer, in the present depreciation of our money, scantiness of supplies, want of virtue and want of exertion, tis hard to say what may be the consequence. It is a melancholy consideration that any concerned in the conduct of public affairs should discover an indifference to the state of our currency. Nothing, in my opinion, can be more manifest, than that if some thing effectual be not done to restore its credit, it will in a short time either cease to circulate altogether, or circulate so feebly as to be utterly incapable of drawing out the resources of the country. This is nearly the case now.”—Washington to John Jay, 10 May, 1779.
[1 ]It is curious that on one point the British Minister should speak in almost precisely the same language as General Washington, though with an opposite application. Lord George Germaine said, in writing to General Clinton: “The rebels have hitherto made the most ungrateful returns for that lenity, which from principles of humanity has been too indiscriminately shown towards them, and, instead of being grateful for indulgences, they have always imputed lenity to fear, and the remission of punishment to the dread of retaliation.”—November 9, 1780.
[1 ]The officers of the New Jersey brigade, after they were under orders to march, as a part of the western expedition against the Indians, sent a memorial to the legislature of the State then sitting at Trenton, clothed in very strong language, and demanding some equitable provision for the officers and men within three days. The legislature was embarrassed with the application in this form, as it assumed the air of menace, and some of the members said they would sooner see the brigade disbanded than yield to demands thus presented, however reasonable in themselves. To get over the difficulty, they hit upon the expedient of persuading the officers to withdraw the memorial, with the understanding that the legislature would instantly take the subject into consideration. In a few hours ample resolves were passed by both houses, granting nearly all that the memorial required. Two hundred pounds were ordered to be given to each commissioned officer, and forty dollars to each soldier, to enable them to pay their debts and prepare for the campaign. The money was immediately forwarded to the brigade at Elizabethtown.—Lord Stirling’s MS. Letter, May 10th.
[1 ]An attack upon New York.
[1 ]The arrival of Count d’Estaing’s fleet.
[2 ]That is, a reinforcement of British troops from England.
[1 ]Referring to Major-General Sullivan.
[1 ]A number of boats were collecting at King’s Bridge which were so prepared as to indicate an attempt requiring secrecy and silence.
[1 ]Read in Congress, June 5th.
[2 ]The enemy landed in two divisions, one on the east side of the river under General Vaughan, eight miles below Verplanck’s Point, and the other on the west side three miles below Stony Point, where the garrison consisted of about forty men. They evacuated the post, as the enemy approached, on the 31st of May. Opposite to Stony Point was a small fort at Verplanck’s Point, called Fort Lafayette. This was garrisoned by a company of seventy men, commanded by Captain Armstrong, who was compelled to surrender when attacked by the cannonade from Stony Point, and by General Vaughan’s party on the other side. The following were the terms of the capitulation.
[1 ]Fort Arnold was at West Point.
[1 ]Sir Henry Clinton, who commanded this expedition in person, was not entirely satisfied at the present juncture with the instructions he received from the ministry, and the part he was made to act. In writing to Lord George Germaine, after stating the numerous difficulties with which he had been obliged to contend, and hinting at the apparent want of confidence implied by the tenor of the instructions lately received, he goes on to say: “Is it to be supposed, that I am not on the watch to profit by every favorable disposition in any part of the continent, or to improve every accidental advantage of circumstances? I am on the spot; the earliest and most exact intelligence on every point ought naturally to reach me. It is my interest, as well as my duty, more than any other person’s living, to inform myself minutely and justly of the particular views, connexions, state, and temper of every province, nay, of every set of men within the limits of my command, and it is my business to mark every possible change in their situation. Why then, my Lord, without consulting me, will you admit the ill-digested or interested suggestions of people, who cannot be competent judges of the subject, and puzzle me by hinting wishes, with which I cannot agree, and yet am loath to disregard? For God’s sake, my Lord, if you wish that I should do any thing, leave me to myself, and let me adapt my efforts to the hourly change of circumstances, and take the risk of my want of success. I do not wish to be captious, but I certainly have not had that attention paid to my wishes, and that satisfaction, which the weight of my situation, and the hopes which you held forth for me, gave me reason to expect.”—New York, May 22d.
[1 ]From General Gates’ Letter.—“As it will be too late for any of the army with your Excellency to disappoint the enemy’s immediate views in Virginia, a glorious opportunity at this instant presents itself for attacking New York with the fairest prospect of advantage; sixteen thousand of the enemy’s troops having most undoubtedly been detached from that city since October last.”—Providence, May 30th.
[1 ]The possession of these posts was looked upon as a step to operations against West Point and other posts in the Highlands. “Our communication by King’s Ferry, far the easiest, is at an end. The extent and difficulty of land transportation are considerably increased,—a new resort and sanctuary afforded to the disaffected in these parts of the country, and a new door opened to draw supplies and to distress and corrupt the inhabitants. Reasons, which need not be explained, put it out of our power to prevent it beforehand or to remedy it now it has happened. We have taken post for the present with the main body of the army in this Clove, where we are as well situated, as we could be anywhere else, to succor the forts in case the future operations of the enemy should be directed against them.”—Washington to the President of Congress, 11 June, 1779.
[1 ]Major Tallmadge was an officer of the second regiment of Light Dragoons, and, on account of his activity, vigilance, and ability, he was often stationed near the enemy’s lines. He held constant correspondence directly with the Commander-in-chief, whose confidence he seems to have enjoyed in a marked degree.
[2 ]A spy, by the name of Culper, who had been long employed in New York, and whose intelligence had been of great importance. There was also a Culper, Jr.
[1 ]In a letter of the 29th Washington requested Major Henry Lee to endeavor to employ some spy to go into the works at Stony Point, or at least make as careful an examination of the particular kind of works, the strength of the garrison, and other points.
[1 ]General Clinton got his boats and provisions expeditiously to the south end of Otsego Lake, as will appear by the following extract from a letter written by him to Governor Clinton.—“I have now at this place two hundred and eight boats, with all the stores, provision, and baggage of the army; so that I am now in the most perfect readiness to move down the Susquehanna whenever I receive General Sullivan’s orders. I have thrown a dam across the outlet, which I conceive to be of infinite importance, as it has raised the Lake at least two feet, by which the boats may be taken down with less danger than otherwise; although from the intricate winding of the channel I expect to meet some difficulties on the way.”—July 6th.
[1 ]“I intend in the orders of to-morrow to publish and approve the sentences of De Pew, King and Bettis; but as we have had frequent examples latterly in the main army, I feel a reluctance at present to add to the number. I therefore propose, as it is the anniversary of our independence, to proclaim a general pardon to all the prisoners now under sentence of death in the army. . . . Inclosed you will receive the report of a committee of the officers of the Right Wing; in which they enter into a voluntary engagement not to purchase certain articles but at a limited price. This has originated with themselves, and though I do not expect much from it, yet as they have entered into the measure, and as its utility and success depend on its being general, I send it to you to take the sense of the officers under your command. The experiment can do no harm, and it may do good.”—Washington to General McDougall, 3 July, 1779.
[1 ]The detachment of the enemy was commanded by Tarleton. It consisted of light dragoons and infantry, amounting, according to some accounts, to three hundred and sixty. Tarleton stated the number at about two hundred. They attacked Sheldon at Pound Ridge, where he was stationed with about ninety light-horse. A skirmish ensued, and Sheldon was compelled by a force so much superior to retreat. Being reinforced by militia, he returned to the attack, and pursued the enemy. The Americans had ten men wounded. Tarleton reported one killed and one wounded of his party. His reason for burning houses was, as he said, because the militia fired from them.—Heath’s Memoirs, p. 208. Tarleton’s Letter, Remembrancer, vol. viii., p. 365.
[1 ]Read in Congress, July 13th. Referred to Marchant, Huntington, and Armstrong. Committee discharged, 13 November, 1779.
[2 ]On the first of July Wayne had been appointed to the command of the light infantry, and stationed between Fort Montgomery and the main army at Smith’s Clove. He was instructed generally to watch the movements of the enemy and oppose any attempt against the forts. In a private instruction he was ordered to give particular attention to the garrisons at Stony Point and Verplanck’s Point.
[1 ]This expedition was under the command of Generals Tryon and Garth. It landed near New Haven on the 5th, in two divisions, and entering the town, gave themselves over to plunder, burning stores, vessels, and dwelling-houses, The marauders were driven back to their ships, but two days later Fairfield was treated in the same manner, chiefly by the Hessians, and later Green Farms and Norwalk suffered at their hands. In a proclamation Tryon said: “The existence of a single habitation on your defenceless coast ought to be a constant reproof to your ingratitude.”
[1 ]The proclamation sent abroad by General Tryon and Sir George Collier, when they invaded Connecticut; and Colonel Whiting’s answer.—See Remembrancer, vol ix., p. 373.
[1 ]Major Henry Lee, with his light dragoons and Captain Allen McLane’s company, was stationed at Haverstraw, for the purpose of gaining intelligence and watching the movements of the enemy. On the 15th Washington ordered Brigadier-General Muhlenberg to put his brigade in motion about midnight, marching secretly and perfectly light, with one day’s provision, towards Stony Point, as Wayne had gone to that place “to take a view of the enemy, and, if an opportunity offers, to attempt something serious.” At half-past nine on the morning of the 16th the following laconic note was received by Washington from Wayne:
“Stony Point, two o’clock, a.m., 16 July, 1779.
“The fort and garrison, with Colonel Johnson, are ours. Our officers and men behaved like men who are determined to be free.
“Yours, most sincerely,“Anthony Wayne.”
[1 ]“I have it from good authority that his Excellency fully expected General Howe would have made the attack, for which purpose he waited a whole day at Stony Point, not only to see the business commence, but also to favor it by a cannonade across the river, by which the enemy were actually drove to the rear of their works.”—General Irvine to President Reed, 23 July, 1779.
[1 ]“In the late assault on Stony Point he commanded one of the attacks, was the first that entered the enemy’s works, and struck the British flag with his own hands, as reported by General Wayne.”—Washington to the President of Congress, 25 July, 1779. Lieutenant-Colonel Fleury was applying for a furlough of a few months desiring to return to France “on some matters interesting to himself.”
[2 ]Lieutenant James Gibbons belonged to the 6th, and Lieutenant Knox to the 9th Pennsylvania regiment.
[1 ]Henry W. Archer.
[1 ]“General Washington established his head-quarters at West Point on the 21st of July, and remained there till December, when the army went into winter-quarters. It was during this period, that the strong works at West Point and its vicinity were chiefly constructed. Part of the time, two thousand five hundred men were daily on fatigue duty. The right wing of the army, consisting of the Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia troops, was commanded by General Putnam; the left wing, composed of the Connecticut brigades and some of the Massachusetts regiments, was under General Heath, and posted in the Highlands on the east side of the river. The centre, or garrison at West Point, was under the immediate command of General McDougall.
[2 ]These Queries were written by General Charles Lee, and after rejection by the Philadelphia papers, were printed anonymously in the Maryland Journal, a paper published by William Goddard, a friend of General Lee.
[1 ]“I shall be happy in such communications, as your leisure and other considerations will permit you to transmit me, for I am as totally unacquainted with the political state of things, and what is going forward in the great national Council, as if I was an alien; when a competent knowledge of the temper and designs of our allies, from time to time, and the frequent changes and complexion of affairs in Europe might, as they ought to do, have a considerable influence on the operations of our army, and would in many cases determine the propriety of measures, which under a cloud of darkness can only be groped at. I say this upon a presumption, that Congress, either through their own ministers or that of France, must be acquainted in some degree with the plans of Great Brit—n, and the designs of France and Spain. If I mistake in this conjecture, it is to be lamented that they have not better information; or, if political motives render Disclosures of this kind improper, I am content to remain in ignorance.”—Washington to Edmund Randolph, 1 August, 1779.