Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1779. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. VIII (1779-1780)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
1779. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. VIII (1779-1780) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. VIII (1779-1780).
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 REV. DR. WILLIAM GORDON.
West Point, 2 August, 1779.
Your favor of the 22d ult. came to my hands by the last Post, and receives, as it deserves, my warmest thanks.—I have also to acknowledge myself your debtor for another letter of the 15th of Decemr., which the number I am obliged to write and read, with other papers to consider, prevented my answering till it had slipped my memory wholly.
The assault of Stoney Point does much honor to the Troops employed in it, as no men could behave better. They were composed of the light Infantry of every State (now in this part of the army) commanded by Genl. Wayne, a brave, gallant and sensible officer. Had it not been for some untoward accidents, the stroke would have been quite compleat. The plan was equally laid for Verplank’s point, and would most assuredly have succeeded, but for delays, partly occasioned by high winds, and partly by means which were more unavoidable.—A combination, however, of causes produced such a delay as gave the enemy time to move in force, and render further operations dangerous and improper; the situation of the Post and other circumstances which may be easily guessed, induced me to resolve a removal of the stores, and the destruction of the works at Stoney point which was according done the third day after it was taken.
The Enemy have again repossessed the ground, and are busily employed in repairing the works, with a force fully adequate to the defence of the spot, which in itself, is a fortification—surrounded as it is by a deep morass exceedingly difficult of access.1 —The rest of their army has remained very quiet ever since, extending from Philip’s on the No. River to East Chester on the Sound, but by my last advices from the City of New York, transports were preparing for the reception of troops and 4 regiments talked of as a reinforcement to Genl. Provost. Though I think it not very unlikely (if they have sailed, of which I have no advice) that they should have gone towards Penobscot, as the Raisonable (a 64 gun ship) and others, are said to have sailed for that place.
Mrs. Washington, according to custom, marched home when the Campaign was about to open—my best respects to Mrs. Gordon.
P. S. I shall (as it is now rather out of season) make but one short remark upon a passage in your letter of the 15th of Decr., and that is, so far from the generality of officers wishing to have the war prolonged, it is my firm belief that there will not be enough left to continue it, however urgent the necessity, unless they are enabled to live, such is the present distress of the generality of them, and the spirit of resignation. The idle and foolish expressions of an individual does not by any means speak the sense of the body, and so far am I from believing that any number of them have views repugnant to the rights of citizens, that I firmly believe the contrary; but if I am mistaken, I can only say that the most distant lisp of it never reached my ears, and would meet with the severest checks if it did.
TO THOMAS JEFFERSON, GOVERNOR OF VIRGINIA.1
West Point, 6 August, 1779.
I have been honored with your Letter of the 17 of July, upon the case of Lt.-Governor Hamilton. This subject, on more mature consideration, appears to be involved in greater difficulty than I apprehended. When I first received the proceedings of the Council upon it, transmitted in your Excellency’s Letter of the 19th of June, I had no doubt of the propriety of the treatment decreed against Mr. Hamilton, as being founded in principles of a just retaliation. But, upon examining the matter more minutely, and consulting with several intelligent General Officers, it seems to be their opinion, that Mr. Hamilton could not, according to the usage of war, after his capitulation even in the manner it was made, be subjected to any uncommon severity under that idea, and that the capitulation placed him upon a different footing from a mere prisoner at discretion.
Whether it may be expedient to continue him in his present confinement from motives of policy, and to satisfy our people, is a question I cannot determine; but if it should, I would take the liberty to suggest, that it may be proper to publish all the cruelties he has committed or abetted, in a particular manner, and the evidence in support of the charges, that the World, holding his conduct in abhorrence, may feel and approve the justice of his fate. Indeed, whatever may be the line of conduct towards him, this may be advisable. If, from the considerations I have mentioned, the rigor of his treatment is mitigated, yet he cannot claim of right upon any ground the extensive indulgence, which Genl. Phillips seems to expect for him; and I should not hesitate to withhold from him a thousand privileges I might allow to common prisoners. He certainly merits a discrimination; and, altho the practice of war may not justify all the measures, that have been taken against him, he may unquestionably, without any breach of public faith or the least shadow of imputation, be confined to a Room. His safe custody will be an object of great importance. I have the honor to be, &c.1
P. S. Augt. 10— I have received your Excellency’s Letter of the 19th of July with the Blank Commissions which I will use as the Council requests.
TO SAMUEL PURVIANCE.
West Point, 7 August, 1779.
Every information which is in my power to give respecting the several queries contained in your letter of the 13th ulto. (received yesterday only) shall be communicated, and I wish a better knowledge and more perfect recollection of circumstances would enable me to give you a more satisfactory answer.
In what manner the person who makes you the offer of land derives his title, I am totally ignorant; but the several conveyances from the original patentee will, and only can speak to the validity of it. If this is part of the land conveyed under a proclamation issued by the governor and council of Virginia, in the year 1754, and has been properly transferred to the present proprietor, and the conditions of an act of assembly requiring certain improvements to be made in a limited period, have been complied with, or in other words, if no person has taken advantage of the non-compliance with this act, and petitioned for the land, the title must be good, because the land was offered by the executive powers of Virginia (in whom sufficient authority was vested) as a bounty to encourage an expedition then on foot against the encroachments of the French on the Ohio; and patents issued in legal form accordingly, after peace was restored to the frontiers. There can be little doubt therefore of the goodness of the title (under the provisos before mentioned,) and how far a non compliance with the act for improving and saving lands would have an operation, considering the distracted state in which that country hath been, the hostile temper of the Indians, and their unwillingness to have these lands settled may be a matter of doubt. Unwilling, however, to place mine upon a precarious footing, I did at great expense and risque send out servants (bought at Baltimore) and Slaves, and saved mine in the manner prescribed by law. So may those also who are now offering to sell, for aught I know to the contrary.
Thus much, Sir, respecting the title to these lands, with regard to the quality of them, I have only to add, I believe it is good. I was not present at the survey of a single acre, but had a superficial view of the whole of them the year before they were surveyed, gave general directions to the surveyor respecting his conduct, and have reason to believe he included no land that was bad. By the description of the lands offered to you, they must be part of a large tract of between 50 and 60,000 acres lying in the fork of the Ohio and great Kanhaway, patented (if my memory serves me) in the names of Muse, Stephen, Lewis, Hogg, West, and others, and afterwards divided among them according to their respective claims, or agreeable to some kind of compromise entered into by mutual consent. But this is a transaction of which I never had any official knowledge, and have come at by report only; nor do I know (as hath been before observed) in what manner, to whom, or with what accuracy, transfers have been made; but the title passed will discover this. Of the validity of the original patent, I have not the smallest doubt. With esteem & regard
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
In the letter which I had the honor of addressing your Excellency the 6th instant I promised a state of facts to shew that every thing in my power has been done to give success to the Western expedition. I am sorry to find in the appeal which General Sullivan has made to Congress that he has misstated several particulars of importance, and that in providing for his own justification in case of misfortune, he has left the matter upon such a footing as to place me in a delicate situation. In justice to myself I beg leave to make a few remarks on the different parts of his letter.
He says in the first place “that the plan for carrying on the expedition was not agreeable to his mind, nor were the number of Men for it sufficient in his opinion to insure success.”
The plan he proposed was to have two bodies, each superior to the whole force of the enemy to operate both on the Mohawk River, and by way of the Susquehannah—This Plan might have been desirable if the number of our troops, the state of our finances, and of supplies had permitted its execution, but it was impracticable on all these accounts. The force actually detached left the Army so weak that I am persuaded every officer of reflection in it, who knew our true circumstances was uneasy for the consequences; and if a larger force had gone, we should have been absolutely at the discretion of the enemy. This will immediately appear from a recurrence to the Returns of the Army at that time. Should we have endeavored to make up the deficiency from the Militia, our experience of the success of the applications which were made will convince us that the attempt would have been fruitless; to say nothing of the injury to agriculture which would have resulted from calling out so large a body of Militia. But if the men could have been procured we should have failed in supplies. This is evident from what has happened. If we have met with so many difficulties, disappointments, and delays in providing for the present force, how would it have been possible to have provided for double the number?
But though, if our resources had permitted, it might have been convenient to have had two bodies, each superior to the enemy’s whole force to operate in different directions for the sake of dispatch, yet this does not appear to me, on military principles, to have been necessary to insure success: For, as the object was only the destruction of some Indian Settlements, all that could be requisite to its execution was to be able to march through them, and this purpose was assured if there was at one capital point a force sufficient to beat their collective force.
General Sullivan seemed to prefer the carrying on the principal operation by the Mohawk River. My reasons for preferring the other route are contained in the letter No. 3 to General Schuyler. General Schuyler was originally of the same opinion, as appears by his letters No 1 and 2, but he changed it upon hearing the reasons in favor of the plan which has been adopted, as he acknowledges in his letter No. 4; where he also suggests an additional motive, the want of Provisions. General Sullivan relinquishes the former plan himself on this principle, nor did the deficiency arise from the want of previous dispositions, but from the difficulties in procuring supplies. It was my own idea at first, as will be seen by several letters herewith, to carry on the principal operation by the Mohawk, and directions were given very early to form Magazines for this purpose which it seems could not be executed. But if this obstacle had not existed, the reasons for penetrating by way of Susquehannah were then, and still are in my opinion, conclusive. The information on which the facts stated in my letter to General Schuyler, were founded is, principally contained in the summary No. 16 Packet No. 7. The experiment hitherto hath confirmed its truth.
General Sullivan says that his letters to me produced no other effect than to change the route of Clinton’s detachment. There are only four points on which his letters turn. One is the having two bodies of superior force to the whole strength of the Enemy to operate different ways.—I have assigned reasons to shew that a compliance with this was impracticable, and General Sullivan’s own concession on the score of provisions is an admission of its impracticability.
Another is, the force necessary to compose the main body,—This he estimates at three thousand—It will be seen by my letter No. 3, Packet 1st, that my opinion long before corresponded with his idea; and the calculations made at the time, of the Corps intended for the service, including the aid solicited from Pennsylvania, induced me to believe General Sullivan’s force would have amounted to about this number. The situation of our troops continually mouldering in a variety of ways—the disappointment in the expected reinforcement from Pennsylvania, and the unlooked for demands from a want of hands in the Quarter Master’s department have occasioned his force to be considerably less than was intended, or could have been foreseen: That he has not been gratified in this respect was not for want of my wishes or endeavors, and is as great a disappointment to me as him. He acknowledges that more Continental troops could not be spared—the Militia applied for were not furnished.
The next point is—a change in the route of the Troops under General Clinton. This he confesses happened as he desired; yet it would have been much against my judgment had his main body been so large as it was intended to be. I fear too, as matters have turned out, the most critical part of the expedition will be the junction of these two Corps. But it appears to me now from Genl. Sullivan’s representation that he could not avoid giving the order to Clinton to march with a full supply of provisions.
The last point is—a change of the Corps originally destined for the Expedition. In this also he was indulged. The precise Corps he requested are with him; though I was not satisfied of the validity of his reason for desiring a change, as I believe very few more of the troops now with him have been accustomed to the Indian mode of fighting than of those who were first intended. I had two motives for fixing on the Pennsylvania troops: one was, that I should have been happy an officer of General St. Clair’s abilities had been second in command to take the direction in case of accidents to the first; General Sullivan by this change reduced his numbers four hundred men, which could not be replaced without breaking in upon other Corps. On the part of Genl. Sullivan’s letter which related to the Quarter Master and Commissaries’ department I shall only observe that there have no doubt been very great delays—whether these have proceeded in part from a want of exertion, or wholly from the unavoidable impediments which the unhappy state of our currency opposes at every step, I have not sufficient information to determine: but from the approved capacity, attention, and assiduity with which the operations of these departments are conducted I am inclined to make every allowance, and to impute our disappointments to the embarrassments of the times, and not to neglect. Genl. Sullivan’s well known activity will not permit me to think he has not done every thing in his power to forward the preparations; but however the delays may have happened I flatter myself no part of the blame can fall upon me. The papers contained in packet No. 2 will shew that the necessary orders were given by me, and that I was encouraged to expect their timely accomplishment. Besides what is upon record, my pressing and repeated entreaties were employed with the Quarter Master and Commissary General in personal conferences. My attention was so much directed to this Expedition that I suspended at a very critical period the necessary preparations for the main Army, to give the greater vigor and efficacy to those for that object.—To this effect were my Instructions to the Quarter Master General when we had the strongest inducements to put ourselves in a moving posture.
General Sullivan in the next place says, “having been taught by repeated disappointments to be cautious, I early gave orders to Genl. Clinton to supply his Troops with three months’ Provisions, and wrote Governor Clinton for his assistance in April last—This has been done and they are supplied.”
The idea here held up is really extraordinary. My letter to General Schuyler No. 1 will shew that as early as the beginning of December Magazines were ordered to be formed in that Quarter for 10,000 men with a view to an expedition to Niagara—By the subsequent letters to him No. 2 & 3 these were partly discontinued and limited to the Plan of an Indian Expedition, the extent of which was to be governed by his judgment of the force necessary. This being 3000 men, the preparations were of course for that number. Schenectedy was afterwards made the depository by Genl. Clinton, as appears by his letter No. 5—in answer to mine No. 4. From the whole tenor of the correspondence on the subject, Congress will clearly perceive, that the Magazines which Genl. Sullivan ascribes to his care and caution were formed in consequence of orders given several months before he was nominated to the command, which did not take place till the 6th of March, by letter; and that they would have been equal to the supply of 3000 men had not the resources of the country fallen short.
General Sullivan states his force at 2312 rank and file, which by a variety of deductions he afterwards reduced to 938 which he holds up as his combatting force.—
I should be unwilling to overrate the means of any officer, or to create a greater responsibility than is just—But at the same time I think it a duty I owe to the public and myself to place a matter of this kind in a true point of light. If almost the whole of the 2,300 men are not effectually serviceable in action, it must be Genl. Sullivan’s own fault—nearly all the men he speaks of, as Pack Horsemen, Bat Horsemen, &c., &c may be to the full as useful as any others. The number he mentions is only necessary for the sake of dispatch on a march; in time of action the horses and cattle may be committed to the care of a very few, and the rest may be at liberty to act as occasion requires. Should he even be attacked on a march those animals may be made a shelter, rather than an incumbrance—If the operations he is to be concerned in were the regular ones of the field, his calculation would be better founded; but in the loose irregular war he is to carry on, it will naturally lead to error and misconception. General Sullivan makes no account of his Drummers and Fifers, and other appendages of an army who do not compose the fighting part of it—I have too good an opinion of his judgment not to believe he would find very useful employment for them. These and the few drivers and pack horsemen whom he acknowledges to have, will be nearly if not quite sufficient with a small guard to take care of his horses and cattle in time of action. But as I before observed, his real force will be less than it ought to be, to put him out of the reach of contingencies; but I hope with prudent management it will still suffice. The estimate made by Genl. Schuyler of the enemy’s force from every subsequent information was not too low; and it is to be hoped the want of provisions will prevent its being exerted in a vigorous and formidable opposition. My chief solicitude is for Genl. Clinton, if he effects the meditated junction there will in my opinion be nothing to fear afterwards.1 Notwithstanding what may be said of the expertness of Indians in the woods, I am strongly persuaded our troops will always be an overmatch for them with equal numbers, except in case of surprise or ambuscade, which it is at our own option to avoid.
General Sullivan also makes the application to the State of Pennsylvania a consequence of his letters. My letter No. 1 to his Excellency the President will shew that this was a part of the plan before General Sullivan was nominated to the command; and my subsequent letters will shew that I pressed a compliance in the strongest and most pointed manner.
He mentions among other things that “one third of his Men are without a shirt to their backs.” The letters No. 1 to 5 Packet 5th will make it appear that I took every step in my power to afford a competent supply, and I have the greatest reason to believe that the Troops with him had more than a proportion to the general wants and supplies of the Army.
The Packet No. 6 contains my instructions from time to time to Genl. Sullivan, No. 7 the intelligence received from first to last, and No. 8 sundry papers relative to the expedition which do not immediately affect the subjects of the present letter, but all which may serve to shew that I have paid all the attention in my power to this important object, and made use of every precaution for its success. I hope the event may answer our wishes; but if it should not, my anxiety to stand justified in the opinion of Congress has induced me to give them the trouble of this lengthy communication—I most sincerely thank them for the opportunity they have afforded me of entering into this explanation by the transmission of General Sullivan’s letter, and I shall be much obliged by a similar indulgence upon every occasion of the same sort.
I beg leave to conclude with one observation. It may possibly hereafter be said that the expedition ought not to have been undertaken unless the means were fully adequate, or that the consequences of a defeat ought not to have been hazarded when they were found to be otherwise—The motives to the undertaking, besides the real importance of rescuing the frontier from the alarms, ravages, and distresses to which it was exposed and which in all probability have redoubled this year,—were the increasing clamors of the country, and the repeated applications of the States immediately concerned, supported by frequent references and indications of the pleasure of Congress. The combined force of these motives appeared to me to leave no alternative.
The means proposed to be employed were fully sufficient; the disappointments we have met with, such as could not have been foreseen as we have no right to expect—so far as the business did not depend on me I had the strongest assurances from those who were concerned, and who were to be supposed the proper judges that my expectations would be fulfilled.
After such extensive preparations has been made—so much expence incurred,—the attention and hopes of the public,—the apprehensions of the enemy excit[ed]—[their] force augmented—their resentments infla[med]—to recede, and leave the frontier a prey [to] their depredations would be in every view impolitic, when there is still a good prospect of success. To avoid possible misfortunes we must in this case submit to many certain evils—of the most serious nature, too obvious to require enumeration. * * *1
I have the honor, &c.
TO DR. JOHN COCHRAN, SURGEON-GENERAL.
West-Point, 16 August, 1779.
I have asked Mrs. Cochran & Mrs. Livingston to dine with me to-morrow; but am I not in honor bound to apprize them of their fare? As I hate deception, even where the imagination only is concerned; I will. It is needless to premise, that my table is large enough to hold the ladies. Of this they had ocular proof yesterday. To say how it is usually covered, is rather more essential; and this shall be the purport of my Letter.
Since our arrival at this happy spot, we have had a ham, (sometimes a shoulder) of Bacon, to grace the head of the Table; a piece of roast Beef adorns the foot; and a dish of beans, or greens, (almost imperceptible,) decorates the center. When the cook has a mind to cut a figure, (which I presume will be the case to-morrow,) we have two Beef-steak pyes, or dishes of crabs, in addition, one on each side the center dish, dividing the space & reducing the distance between dish & dish to about 6 feet, which without them would be near 12 feet apart. Of late he has had the surprising sagacity to discover, that apples will make pyes; and its a question, if, in the violence of his efforts, we do not get one of apples, instead of having both of Beef-steaks. If the ladies can put up with such entertainment, and will submit to partake of it on plates, once Tin but now Iron—(not become so by the labor of scouring), I shall be happy to see them; and am, dear Doctor, yours, &c.
TO LUND WASHINGTON.
West Point, 17 August, 1779.
Some time ago (but how long I cannot remember) you applied to me to know if you should receive payment of Genl. Mercer’s Bonds, and of the bond due from the deceased Mr. Mercer’s estate to me; and was, after animadverting a little upon the subject, authorized to do so.—Of course I presume the money has been received.—I have since considered this matter in every point of view my judgment enables me to place it, and am resolved to receive no more old debts (such I mean as were contracted and ought to have been paid before the war) at the present nominal value of the money, unless compelled to it, or it is the practice of others to do it. Neither justice, reason, nor policy requires it. The law undoubtedly was well designed. It was intended to stamp a value, and give a free circulation to, the paper bills of credit; but it never was nor could have been intended to make a man take a shilling or sixpence in the pound for a just debt, wch. he is well able to pay, and thereby involve’g himself in ruin. I am as willing now, as I ever was, to take paper money for every kind of debt, and at its present depreciated value for those debts, which have been contracted since the money became so; but I will not in future receive the nominal sum for such old debts as come under the above description, except as before excepted.
The fear of injuring, by any example of mine, the credit of our paper currency, if I attempted to discriminate between the real and nominal value of Paper money, has already sunk me a large Sum, if the bonds before mentd. are paid off; the advantage taken in doing which no man of honor or common honesty can reconcile to his own feelings and conscience; not as it respects me, do I mean, but transactions of this kind generally. The thing which induces me to mention the matter to you at present is, the circumstance you have related respecting the wages of Roberts, which you say, (according to his demands,) will amount to upwards of £2000, and comes to as much for the Service of a Common miller for one year only, as I shall get for 600 acres of land sold Mercer in the best of times and in the most valuable part of Virginia, that ought to have been pd. for before the money began to depreciate; nay, years before the war. This is such a manifest abuse of reason and justice that no arguments can reconcile it to common sense or common honesty. Instead of appealing to me, who have not the means of informatn., or knowledge of common usage and practice in matters of this kind in the State, or the Laws that govern there, I wish you would consult men of honor, honesty, and firm attachment to the cause, and govern yourself by their advice, or by yr. conduct. If it be customary with others to receive money in this way, that is, 6d or 1/ in the pound for old debts; if it is thought to be advancive of the great cause we are embarked in for individuals to do so, thereby ruining themselves while others are reaping the benefit of such distress; if the Law imposes this, and it is thought right to submit, I will not say aught against or oppose another word to it. No man has, nor no man will go, further to serve the Public than myself. If sacrificing my whole Estate would effect any valuable purpose, I would not hesitate one moment in doing it. But my submitting to matters of this kind, unless it is done so by others, is no more than a drop in the bucket. In fact, it is not serving the public, but enriching individuals, and countenancing dishonesty; for sure I am, that no honest man would attempt to pay 20/ with one, or perhaps half of one. In a word, I had rather make a present of the Bonds, than receive payment of them in so shameful a way. I am, &c.
TO PRESIDENT REED.
West Point, 22 August, 1779.
Mr. Tilghman delivered me your favor of the 8th Instant, for which, and the favorable sentiments expressed of me in your publication addressed to the printer of the Maryland Journal, you will permit me to offer my grateful acknowledgements. The loss of Fort Washington, simply abstracted from the circumstances which attended it, was an event that gave me much pain, because it deprived the army of the services of many valuable men at a critical period, and the public of many valuable lives, by the cruelties which were inflicted upon them in their captive state. But this concern received additional poignancy from two considerations, which were but little known; one of them never will be known to the world, because I shall never attempt to palliate my own foibles by exposing the error of another; nor indeed could either of them come before the public, unless there had been such a charge, as must have rendered an inquiry into the causes of this miscarriage necessary. The one was a non-compliance in General Greene with an order sent to him from White Plains, before I marched for the western side of Hudson’s River, to withdraw the artillery, stores, &c., from the Fort; allowing him, however, some latitude for the exercise of his own judgment, as he was upon the spot, and could decide better from appearances and circumstances than I, the propriety of a total evacuation.1 The other was a Resolve of Congress, in the emphatic words following;
“Friday, October 11th, 1776.—Resolved, that General Washington be desired, if it be practicable, by every art and whatever expense, to obstruct effectually the navigation of the North River, between Fort Washington and Mount Constitution, as well to prevent the regress of the enemy’s Frigates lately gone up, as to hinder them from receiving succours.”
When I came to Fort Lee, and found no measures taken for an evacuation, in consequence of the order aforementioned; when I found General Greene, of whose judgment and candor I entertained a good opinion, decidedly opposed to it; when I found other opinions coinciding with his; when the wishes of Congress to obstruct the navigation of the North River, and which were delivered in such forcible terms to me, recurred; when I knew that the easy communication between the different parts of the army, then separated by the river, depended upon it; and, lastly, when I considered that our policy led us to waste the campaign without coming to a general action on the one hand, or to suffer the enemy to overrun the country on the other, I conceived that every impediment, which stood in their way, was a mean to answer these purposes;—and when thrown into the scale of those opinions, which were opposed to an evacuation, caused that warfare in my mind, and hesitation, which ended in the loss of the garrison; and, being repugnant to my own judgment of the advisability of attempting to hold the Post, filled me with the greater regret. The two great causes, which led to this misfortune, (and which I have before recited,) as well perhaps as my reasoning upon it, which occasioned the delay, were concealed from public view, of course left the field of censure quite open for any and every laborer, who inclined to work in it; and afforded a fine theme for the pen of a malignant writer, who is always less regardful of facts than the point he wants to establish, where he has the field wholly to himself, and where concealment of a few circumstances will answer his purpose, or where a small transposition of them will give a very different complexion to the same transaction.
Why I have run into such a lengthy discussion of this point, at this time, I am at a loss myself to tell. I meant but to touch it en passant; but one idea succeeded another, till it would seem, that I had been preparing my defence for a regular charge.
My ideas of what seems to be the only mode left to keep our Battalions to their establishment, or near it, you are already acquainted with, as they were conveyed at large to the Comee. at Valley Forge in ’78. I have seen no cause since to change my opinion on this head, but abundant reason to confirm me in it. No man dislikes short and temporary enlistments more than I do. No man ever had greater cause to reprobate and even curse the fatal policy of the measure than I have; Nor, no man (with decency) ever opposed it more, in the early part of this contest; and, had my advice respecting this matter been pursued, in the years seventy five and six, our money would have been upon a very different establishment, in point of credit, to what it is at this day, as we should have saved millions of pds. in bounty money, and the consequent evils of expiring armies and new levies. But those hours are passed, never to be recalled. Such men as compose the bulk of an army are in a different train of thinking and acting to what they were in the early stages of the war; and nothing is now left for it but an annual and systematic mode of drafting, which, while we retain the stamina of an army, (engaged for the war,) will be the best. Indeed, I see no other substitute for voluntary enlistments. In fact it will come to this; for there are people enow, (old soldiers,) who will hire as substitutes, and the difference will be, that, instead of the public’s emitting or borrowing money to pay their bounties, (which is enlarged greatly every new enlistment,) these sums will be paid by individuals, will increase the demand for circulating cash, and, as with all other commodities in demand, raise the value of it by multiplying the means of its use. How far those governments, which are rent and weakened by intestine divisions, have energy enough to carry statutes of this nature into execution, I do not pretend to be a competent judge; but such as are well established and organized I am sure can do it. Those that are not, the propriety of the measure is so necessary and obvious, that I should entertain little doubt of their success in the experiment.
The sponge, which you say some gentlemen have talked of using, unless there can be a discrimination, and proper saving clauses provided, (and how far this is practicable I know not,) would be unjust and impolitic in the extreme. Perhaps I do not understand what they mean by using the sponge. If it be to sink the money in the hands of the holders of it, and at their loss, it cannot in my opinion be justified upon any principles of common policy, common sense, or common honesty. But how far a man, for instance, who has possessed himself of 20 paper dollars by means of one, or the value of one, in specie, has a just claim upon the public for more than one of the latter in redemption, and in that ratio according to the periods of depreciation, I leave to those, who are better acquainted with the nature of the subject, and have more leizure than I have, to discuss. To me a measure of this kind appears substantial justice to the public and each individual; but whether it is capable of administration, I have never thought enough of it to form any opinion. We have given the enemy another little stroke at Powles hook—an acct. of which is transmitted to Congress by this conveyance and will I presume he handed to the public—in the mean while I have the pleasure to inform you that abt. 160 prisoners and the colors of the Garrison were brought off.
I am, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
I have the honor to enclose your Excellency Major Lee’s report of the surprise & capture of the garrison of Powles Hook.1 The Major displayed a remarkable degree of prudence, address, enterprise, and bravery, upon this occasion, which does the highest honor to himself and to all the officers and men under his command. The situation of the post rendered the attempt critical and the success brilliant. It was made in consequence of information, that the garrison was in a state of negligent security, which the event has justified. I am much indebted to Major-Genl. Lord Stirling for the judicious measures he took to forward the enterprise, and to secure the retreat of the party. Lieutenant McCalester, who will have the honor of delivering these despatches, will present Congress with the standard of the garrison, which fell into his possession during the attack. Major Lee speaks of this gentleman’s conduct in the handsomest terms. I have the honor to be, &c.2
P. S. The report not having been received till this day, prevented a speedier transmission. Major Lee mentions twenty men lost on our side. Capt. Rudolph informs, that, since the report was concluded, several of the missing had returned, which will lessen the supposed loss near one-half.
TO JOHN PARKE CUSTIS.
West Point, 24 August, 1779.
In answer to your letter of the 11th inst:—I candidly acknowledge I am at a loss what advice to give you, with precision, respecting the sale of your estate upon the eastern shore; but, upon the whole, in the present uncertain state of things, should, were I in your place, postpone the measure a while longer.
Your own observation must have convinced you of the rapid depreciation of the paper currency in the course of the last ten months, and this it will continue to do till there is a stop put to further emissions, and till some vigorous measures are adopted by the states respectively and collectively to lessen the circulating medium. You must be sensible that it is not forty thousand pounds, nor four hundred thousand, nor any nominal sum whatever, that would give you the value of the land in Northampton. Instance your unfortunate sale of the York estate to Colonel Braxton for twenty thousand pounds, which, I suppose, would now fetch one hundred thousand pounds, and unless, for the purpose of speculating in that or some other article, this sum, I am persuaded, would be refused by that gentleman. The present profit of your land on the Eastern shore may be trifling,—nay, I will admit that at this time, it is an encumbrance to you,—but still it retains in itself an intrinsic and real value, which rises nominally in proportion to the depreciation, and will always be valuable, if, (admitting the worst) the money should cease to pass. But, though the event is not probable, I will suppose that to be the case, or that it should continue to depreciate, as it has done, for the last ten months, where are you then? Bereft of your land, and in possession of a large sum of money that will neither buy victuals nor clothes—
There are but two motives which ought, and, I trust, can induce you to sell; the one is to invest the money in the purchase of something else of equal value immediately; the other, to place it in the public funds. If the first is your object, I have no hesitation in giving my opinion in favor of the sale; because lands at so great a distance from you never will be profitable, and your only consideration is to be careful in your bargains elsewhere, making the prices of the thing sold and the things bought correspond with respect to times and places. In fact, this is but another name for barter or exchange; but, when the other is your inducement, the whole matter turns upon the credit and appreciation of the money, and these again upon financing, loans, taxes, war, peace, good success, bad success, the arts of designing men, mode of redemption, and other contingent events, which, in my judgment, very few men see far enough into to justify a capital risk; consequently you would be playing a hazardous, and possibly, in the issue, a ruinous game, for the chance of having sold at the turn of the tide, as it were, when there is not much fear of foregoing this advantage by any sudden appreciation of our money. In a word, by holding your land a few months longer, you can only lose the taxes; by selling, to place the money in the fund, you may lose considerably. Selling to buy, as I have before said, I consider as an exchange only; but then both bargains should be made at the same time. This was my advice to you before, and I now repeat it; otherwise the purchases you have in contemplation may rise fifty per cent. between your sale and the final accomplishment of them.
I observe what you say also respecting payment of your old bonds, and have less scruple in giving it to you as my opinion that you are not bound, in honor or by any principle of reason or love to your country, to accept payment of such as are upon demand, and were given previous to the contest and to the depreciation of the money at the present nominal value of it, by which a just debt, and where great indulgences have been shown the creditor in forbearance, is discharged at the rate of a shilling in the pound. Every man who is a friend to the cause is to receive the money in all payments, and to give it a circulation, as free as the air he breathes in; but it is absurd and repugnant to every principle of honor, honesty, and common sense, to say that one man shall receive a shilling in the pound of another for a just debt when that other is well able to pay twenty shillings, and the same means which enabled him to pay the one formerly will enable him, with as much ease, to pay the other now.
It is necessary for me to premise that I am totally unacquainted with your laws on this head, and the consequences of a refusal. I am only arguing, therefore in behalf of the reason and justice of my opinion, and on the presumption that all law is founded in equity. The end and design, therefore, of this (if there is such a one as compels payment under certain penalties and forfeitures) could only be to give credit and circulation to the bills in all payments, not to enrich one man at the ruin of another, which is most manifestly the case at present, and is such a glaring abuse of common justice that I can not but wonder at the practice obtaining.
Our affairs, at present, put on a pleasing aspect, especially in Europe and the West Indies,1 and bids us, I think, hope for the certain and final accomplishment of our independence. But as peace depends upon our allies equally with ourselves, and Great Britain has refused the mediation of Spain, it will puzzle, I conceive, the best politicians to point out with certainty the limitation of our warfare.
Experience, which is the best rule to walk by, has, I am told, clearly proved the utility of having the ditch for draining of sunken grounds on the inside, and at a considerable distance (for instance, two shovels’ throw) from the bank, consequently is a better criterion to judge from than the simple opinion of your ditcher, who may govern himself by the practice of other countries that will not apply to the circumstances of this, when there may be enemies to our banks unknown, perhaps, to them. * * *
CIRCULAR TO STATES.
Head-Quarters, 26 August, 1779.
I have the honor to enclose to your Excellency a list of sundry officers belonging to your State, who have been in captivity and are reported by the commissary of prisoners as violators of parole. A conduct of this kind, so ignominious to the individuals themselves, so dishonorable to their country and to the service in which they have been engaged, and so injurious to those gentlemen, who were associated with them in misfortune, but preserved their honor, demands that every measure should be taken to deprive them of the benefit of their delinquency, and to compel their return. We have pledged ourselves to the enemy to do every thing in our power for this purpose; and in consequence I directed Mr. Beatty, the commissary of prisoners, to issue the summons, which you will probably have seen in the public papers. But as it is likely to have a very partial operation, I find it necessary, in aid of it, to request the interposition of the different States to enforce a compliance. The most of these persons never having been, and none of them now being, in the Continental service, military authority will hardly be sufficient to oblige them to leave their places of residence, and return to captivity against their inclination; neither will it be difficult for them to elude a military search, and keep themselves in concealment. I must therefore entreat, that your Excellency will be pleased to take such measures, as shall appear to you proper and effectual, to produce their immediate return. This will be rendering an essential service to our officers in general in captivity, and will tend much to remove the difficulties, which now lie in the way of exchanges, and to discourage the practice of violating paroles in future. I am, &c.
TO MAJOR HENRY LEE.
Head-Quarters, 1 September, 1779.
I have received your letter of this date, “requesting me to give you in writing the instructions, which you verbally received from me on the subject of Powles Hook, when you were last at Head-Quarters, and particularly concerning the immediate evacuation of the post after the reduction, and concerning the retreat.”
When you were last at Head-Quarters, the Enterprise against Powles Hook was in contemplation, but not finally determined, as there were some points of information still to be more fully obtained. I gave you then, in general, my ideas of the manner in which it should be conducted, whenever attempted, and desired you to use your best endeavors to procure information in such matters, as appeared not to be sufficiently well understood, and mentioned the precautions that should be taken to cover the design, and secure the party, which might be employed in the Enterprise, in its approach. But, with respect to the point to which your request more particularly extends, to wit, “the evacuation of the post, and concerning the retreat,” my principal fear, from the moment I conceived a design against the post, was on account of the difficulty of the retreat, founded on the relative situation of the post to that of the Enemy on York Island. This circumstance induced me to add, that, in case the enterprise should be found eligible on farther inquiries, and determined on, no time should be lost, in case it succeeded, in attempting to bring off Cannon, stores, or any other articles, as a few minutes’ delay might expose the party at least to imminent risk. I further recollect, that I likewise said, that no time should be spent, in such case, in collecting stragglers of the Garrison, who might skulk and hide themselves, lest it should prove fatal; also that, if the post could not be carried in an instant by surprise, the attempt must be relinquished. My objects were to surprise it, to bring off the garrison immediately, and to effect a secure retreat. I am, Sir, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL GREENE.1
West-point, 3 September, 1779.
I have received your letter, of the 29th Ulto. accompanied by those from the General Officers, and have carefully considered their respective contents. The subject is of such a nature, that I should have thought it advisable not to have brought it to a formal investigation; but, since it has been done, I shall give you my opinion now with candor and explicitness.
When you accepted The QuarterMaster-General’s department, and made a reservation of your rank, I considered it as intended to prevent the operation of a certain resolve of Congress, “declaring that no Continental officer should hold more than one commission at a time,” and to obviate any future doubt of your right to resume your proper station in the line, on the resignation of this office. It was not in my opinion understood, that you were to retain an actual permanent command, a proof of which is, that you immediately relinquished your division, and have continued out of command ever since, except upon two occasions of an extraordinary nature and by special appointment. My idea was, that you were to stand precisely upon the same footing, in proportion to your rank, with Quarter-Master-Generals in other services, who, from the best information I have been able to obtain, do not usually exercise a regular lineal command, but are eligible by the officer at the head of the army to occasional commands, either on detachment or in the line, when, in his opinion, it is for the good of the service to employ them in this manner, and it does not interfere with the duties of the department, or with the particular and proper command of other officers. Upon this principle you were appointed to the right wing in the affair of Monmouth, and were sent to take a command under General Sullivan, and both, as far as I have ever heard, were agreeable to the general sense of the army. To attempt a more precise definition of the cases, in which you may be invested with actual command, might only lead to misapprehension, discontent on one side or another, embarrassing discussions, and perhaps confusion.
The military reason, which prevents a Quarter-Master-General from exercising command in ordinary cases, I take to be this, that, whatever may be the fact, the presumption is, that both in action and out of action he has, generally speaking, sufficient employment in the duties of his office, and circumstances alone can decide when these are compatible with actual command.
The good opinion I have of your abilities and qualifications will make me take pleasure to give you opportunities of rendering service and acquiring military honor in the field, as often as it can be done consistently with propriety, the good of the service, and the reasonable pretensions of other officers. The experience you have already had may satisfy you of my disposition. You have participated in the only two transactions of importance, which have happened since your appointment, in which the whole or a considerable portion of the army has been concerned; but I could not undertake to draw any line, which should determine the particular instances.
You ask several questions respecting your conduct in your present department, your manner of entering it, and the services you have rendered. I remember that the proposal for your appointment originated with the Committee of arrangement, and was first suggested to me by them; that, in the conversations I had with you upon the subject, you appeared reluctantly to undertake the office, and, in one of them, offered to discharge the military duties of it without compensation for the space of a year; and I verily believe that a regard to the service, not pecuniary emolument, was the prevailing motive to your acceptance. In my opinion, you have executed the trust with ability and fidelity.
The services you have rendered the army have been important, and such as have gained my entire approbation, which I have not failed to express on more than one occasion to Congress, in strong and explicit terms. The sense of the army on this head, I believe, concurs with mine. I think it not more than justice to you to say, that I am persuaded you have uniformly exerted yourself to second my measures and our operations in general, in the most effectual manner, which the public resources and the circumstances of the times would permit.
But with the fullest allowance for your services, on the most liberal scale of compensation, I cannot but think the construction I have given to your pretensions to command is just and ample. Your own feelings must determine whether it is satisfactory. It corresponds with my sentiments of military propriety, and is, I believe, analogous to the customary practice of armies, which is the best standard in all cases of this kind, so far as it does not contravene any positive constitution. I think, too, it is most agreeable to the sense of a majority of the general officers, whom you have consulted. If it differs from your own, I shall regret what it is not in my power to avoid. I am with great esteem and regard, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
The current of intelligence from New York makes the late reinforcement under Arbuthnot amount to about 3,000 troops, principally recruits, and rather in an unhealthy situation. It also speaks of preparations for an expedition, and some recent rumors point to the southern States, though the enemy have thrown out menaces against this post. If the reinforcement does not exceed this estimate, they may not think themselves able to operate effectually this way; in which case, the unpromising situation of their affairs may tempt them to make an effort to get hold of some of the southern States, to conterballance their losses in the West Indies, and favor negotiations in the Winter. They have been for some time past fortifying across New York Island, and it is said are going to erect a strong work at Brookline on Long Island. All this may be, to have it in their power to secure their present posts with a small force, and make large detachments with the greater confidence.1 A part may go to the West Indies, and a considerable number still be spared for the purpose I am supposing; the more so, if Rhode Island, which now become to them a very inferior object, should be evacuated.
An apprehension of the Spaniards may be an objection to this plan; but they may not be deterred by this danger, from the probability that the Spaniards will rather direct their attention to Jamaica than to this continent; besides which, if they have a large force operating in the southern States, it may easily enough be turned to the defence of their own possessions that way; or, if these should be lost, they will be amply compensated by the full acquisition of Georgia and South Carolina, both of which are so weak as to be in no small danger.1 I take the liberty to suggest these hints, as it seems to me to be the part of prudence to be upon our guard against a plan of this nature, and to take every precaution in our power to disappoint its success. By a letter I have received from General Lincoln, his force is insignificant, and his prospects of an addition feeble. No exertions should be omitted to make them better.
Though our force here is far from making a diminution desirable, yet, as I think we have more to apprehend to the southward than in this quarter, if Congress should be of opinion for sending the two North Carolina regiments that way, I should hope they might now be spared without material injury. The distance is a very discouraging circumstance, but the troops shall be in readiness to move the moment the pleasure of Congress is known. I have the honor to enclose the copy of a letter, which I have just received from General Sullivan, and to congratulate Congress on the agreeable and important success it announces.1
I have the honor to be, &c.
TO JOHN JAY.
West Point, Sept. the 7th, 1779.
I have received your obliging Favors of the 25th and 30th of last month and thank you for them.
It really appears impossible to reconcile the conduct Britain is pursuing, to any system of prudence or policy. For the reasons you assign, appearances are against her deriving aid from other powers; and, if it is truly the case that she has rejected the mediation of Spain, without having made allies, it will exceed all past instances of her infatuation.1 Notwithstanding appearances, I can hardly bring myself fully to believe, that it is the case; or that there is so general a combination against the interests of Britain among the European powers, as will permit them to endanger the political ballance. I think it probable enough, that the conduct of France in the affairs of the porte and Russia will make an impression on the Empress; but I doubt whether it will be sufficient to counterballance the powerful motives she has to support England; and the porte has been perhaps too much weakened in the last war with Russia to be over fond of renewing it. The Emperor is also the natural ally of England, notwithstanding the connexions of blood between his family and that of France; and he may prefer reasons of national policy to those of private attachment. ’T is true, his finances may not be in the best state, though one campaign could hardly have exhausted them; but, as Holland looks up to him for her chief protection, if he should be inclined to favor England, it may give her councils a decided byass the same way. She can easily supply what is wanting in the article of money, and by this aid give sinews to that confederacy. Denmark is also the natural ally of England; and, though there has been lately a family bickering, her political interests may outweigh private animosity. Her marine assistance would be considerable. Portugal, too, tho timid and cautious at present, if she was to see connexions formed by England able to give her countenance and security, would probably declare for her interests. Russia, Denmark, The Emperor, Holland, portugal, and England would form a respectable counterpoise to the opposite scale. Though all the maritime powers of Europe were interested in the independence of this country, as it tended to diminish the overgrown power of Britain, yet they may be unwilling to see too great a preponderancy on the side of her rivals; and when the question changes itself, from the separation of America to the ruin of England as a naval power, I should not be surprised at a proportionable change in the sentiments of some of those states, which have been heretofore unconcerned spectators, or inclining to our side. I suggest these things rather as possible than probable. It is even to be expected, that the decisive blow will be struck before the interposition of the allies England may acquire, can have effect. But still, as possible events, they ought to have their influence, and prevent our relaxing in any measures necessary for our safety, on the supposition of a speedy peace, or removal of the war from the present theatre in America.
The account, which Mr. Wharton received, of the reinforcement that came with Adml. Arbuthnot, corresponds pretty well, with respect to numbers, with the best information I have been able to obtain upon the subject. Some recent advices make it about Three thousand, and say, that these Troops are rather in a sickly condition. It is generally said, that they are Recruits; but whether there is so great a proportion of the Scotch, as his intelligence mentions, is not ascertained by any accounts I have received.1
With respect to the person you recommended last winter, he was employed in consequence, and I have not the smallest doubt of his attachment and integrity. But he has not had it in his power, and indeed it is next to impossible that any one should, circumstanced as he is, to render much essential service in the way it was intended to employ him. You will readily conceive the difficulties in such a case. The business was of too delicate a nature for him to transact it frequently himself, and the characters he has been obliged occasionally to confide it to, have not been able to gain any thing satisfactory or material. Indeed, I believe it will seldom happen, that a person acting in this way, can render any essential advantages more than once or twice at any rate; and what he will be compelled to do, to preserve the pretended confidence of the other party, will generally counterballance any thing he may effect. The greatest benefits are to be derived from persons, who live with the other side; whose local circumstances, without subjecting them to suspicions, give them an opportunity of making observations, and comparing and combining things and sentiments. It is with such I have endeavored to establish a correspondence, and on whose reports I shall most rely. From these several considerations I am doubtful, whether it will be of any advantage for the person to continue longer in the way he has acted. The points, to which he must have alluded in his letter, were the movements up the North River, and against Charles-Town, and the expedition to Virginia. I believe the first certain information of the first of these events came from him. He has never received any thing from me.1 The gentleman, who employed him first, had some money deposited with him for confidential purposes; but I cannot tell how much he may have paid him. With every sentiment of esteem, regard, and respect, I am, dear Sir, &c.
TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE, PARIS.
West-point, 12 September, 1779.
My dear Marquis,
Often since you left this Country I have written to you, but have not been favored with a single line from you since you lay in Boston harbor. This I shall ascribe to any cause, rather than a decline of friendship. I feel my own regard for you so sensibly, that I shall never suspect a want of it in your breast. I intended to have wrote you a very long letter by Monsr. Gerard, whom I have been expecting at this place on his way to Boston for two days past; but I am this instant informed, that he either has embarked or is upon the very point of Embarking at Philadelphia. Not choosing that he should go without carrying some testimony of my constant remembrance of you, I do in much haste scribble these lines.
Most sincerely, my dear Marquis, do I congratulate you on the great and glorious exploits of Count d’Estaing in the West Indies; the bright prospect of European affairs; and our little successes in America; the last of which, though small on the great scale, will nevertheless weigh in the ballance. By our little successes I mean the storming of Stony point and the surprise of Paules hook (within cannon-shott of the City of New York), and capture of the garrisons, the first amounting to six hundred men, the other to two hundred; driving the enemy out of South Carolina; and defeat of the Indians; which last event I have within these few days received an acct. of from General Sullivan, who is now in the heart of their country with 4000 men, and informs me, that on the 29th ulto. he advanced to their Intrenchments, at a place called Newtown, where the warriors of seven nations, some regulars and Tories, commanded by the two Butlers,1 Brant, and a Captn. McDonald, had been assembled eight days to oppose him. The position was well chosen and their disposition well made; but on finding themselves hard pushed in front, and their left flank in danger of being turned, they fled in great confusion and disorder and with much precipitation, leaving their packs, camp-kettles, Trinkets, and many arms on the ground, and eleven warriors which they could not get off dead. The prisoners—of which a few were taken—say, that their slain and wounded were carried off during the action on horses and in Canoes. Our loss was trifling; in the whole, to the date of this Letter, under a hundred killed and wounded, although he had advanced to and destroyed fourteen Towns, large and most flourishing Crops of Corn, pulse, &c. He was proceeding in his plan of chastisement, and will convince them, it is to be hoped, of two things; first, that their cruelties are not to pass with impunity; and, secondly, that they have been instigated to arms and acts of Barbarism by a nation, which is unable to protect them, and of consequence has left them to that correction, which is due to their villany.
The Bostonians have made an unfortunate expedition to a place called Penobscot, where a body of about 800 men from Halifax, under the command of Brigr. Genl. McLean, had made a lodgment, as is supposed, for the purpose of getting masts and spars for their shipping. This armament from the Massachusetts Bay, (consistg. altogether of militia,) went there to dispossess them, but were so dilatory in their operations, that Sir George Collier, with a superior naval force to theirs, appearing, occasioned the destruction (by themselves) of all their shipping, and the Troops to get off as well as they could by land. This, and the conflagration of Fairfield, Norwalk, and New Haven, by the intrepid and magnanimous Tryon, who, in defiance of all the opposition that could be given by the women and Children, Inhabitants of these Towns, performed this notable exploit with 2000 brave and generous Britons, adding thereby fresh lustre to their arms and dignity to their King.
Admiral Arbuthnot, with about 3 or 4000 troops, is arrived at New York, and will, it is to be presumed, afford Sir Henry Clinton an opportunity of displaying his intentions or orders. I every moment look for the Chevalier de la Luzerne on his way from Boston to Congress. By him, I please myself with the hope of receiving a letter from you. If I am disappointed in this, I shall assuredly hear of you. I have spun my letter to a much greater length than I expected, and as Monsr. La Colombe is waiting, I will only detain him, while I can add that, with every sentiment of esteem, regard, and affection, I am, my dear Marquis, &c.
TO COUNT D’ESTAING.
Head Quarters, 13 September, 1779.
Having received intelligence which made it probable that a squadron of his most Christian Majesty was approaching our coast, I thought it my duty to meet you with the earliest advice of the situation of the enemy in this quarter. Admiral Arbuthnot arrived at New York the 25th of last month, with a reinforcement under his convoy, consisting from the best accounts I have been able to obtain of about three thousand men, mostly recruits, and in bad health. This makes the land force of the enemy at New York and its dependencies near fifteen thousand men, distributed in the following manner—on the Island of New York, about 7,000; on Long Island, about 5000; on Staten Island, about 1000; at King’s ferry up the North River 45 miles from New York about 2000—and a small garrison at Powles Hook, a fortified peninsula on the Jersey shore opposite the city. This distribution is agreeable to the last advices; but the enemy’s disposition undergoes very frequent changes, and may have been altered. They have been for some time past drawing a line of works across New York Island, and have lately fortified Governor’s Island, near the city. They have also works on Staten Island, and are said to have begun a strong fort at Brooklyn, on Long Island.
The best information of the naval force in the harbor of New York makes it one seventy four, one sixty four, two fiftys, and two or three frigates, with a few small armed vessels.
The land force at Rhode Island is estimated between three and four thousand. There may be one or two frigates there.
Sir George Collier sailed some time since on an expedition to the eastward of Boston. The force with him was composed of one vessel of the line, one forty four gun ship, and several smaller frigates and armed vessels. He has completed his object, but I have not heard of his return.
If it is your Excellency’s intentions to operate against the enemy at New York, it will be infinitely interesting that you should immediately enter the harbor, and make such dispositions as will be best calculated to prevent a reunion of their force at a single point which would make their reduction a matter of no small difficulty. If your Excellency has a land force you will be able to judge in what manner it may be most usefully employed to intercept the detachments on Long and Staten Islands. From the situation of the former relatively to New York, it will not be easy to intercept the troops there, because the enemy can throw their troops from one to the other at pleasure; and your ships could not conveniently lie in the East River to cut off the communication. It is not improbable the enemy’s fleet will endeavor to take shelter in this river.
It will also be of importance to run two or three frigates up the North River, into Haverstraw bay, to obstruct the retreat of the garrisons at King’s ferry by water; and I should be happy these frigates may announce themselves by firing a number of guns in quick succession, which will put it in my power to push down a body of troops below the garrisons on the East side to intercept a retreat by land to King’s ferry bridge. This will also answer the purpose of giving me earlier advice of your arrival than I would obtain in any other way. But some caution will be necessary for the passage of these frigates up the river, as there have been some chevaux de frise sunk opposite fort Washington, which has given a partial obstruction to the channel. Your Excellency will probably be able to capture some seamen who will be acquainted with the navigation of the River in its present state.
To prevent the retreat of any part of the enemy through the sound, it would be useful to detach a few ships round to take a convenient station there. These may answer another object, to hinder the evacuation of Rhode Island, either to form a junction with the main body, or withdraw to a place of security and avoid falling into your hands. The detachment for this purpose need not be greater than to be a full match for Sir George Collier.
I have taken the liberty to throw out these hints for your Excellency’s information, and permit me to entreat that you will favor me as soon as possible with an account of your Excellency’s and the land force under your command, which will help me to judge what additional succor it may be expedient to draw from the country, and what other measures ought to be taken for a perfect co-operation. I also entreat your Excellency’s sentiments on the manner of this co-operation, and you may depend upon every exertion NA in my power to promote the success of an enterprise, from which such decisive advantages may be expected to the common cause.
I sincerely congratulate you on your glorious victories in the West Indies, in which no one takes greater interest than myself as well from motives of personal attachment as a concern for the common cause. I have the honor &c.
P. S. Major Lee who will have the honor of delivering these despatches is an officer of intelligence and judgment, in whose information your Excellency may place great confidence. He will be happy to execute any orders with which you may be pleased to honor him.
TO JOHN BEATTY, COMMISSARY-GENERAL OF PRISONERS.
I have received your report dated the 22d of your transactions with Mr. Loring, on the subject of exchanges. Mr. Loring’s answer to your first proposition revives the old question of a composition of privates for officers, which has been so repeatedly and so fruitlessly agitated, and which can now only tend to embarrass the relief of the prisoners on both sides. It seems, that the more we do to remove the obstacles in the way of exchanges, the more solicitous the enemy are to contrive new ones, and revile the old; as if they expected at length to fatigue us into compliance with their unreasonable demands. I know not with what face of justice or decency they can depart, whenever it suits a particular interest, from all those principles, which have been agreed upon between us, and have uniformly governed our exchanges. The only established rule of exchange hitherto has been, “officer for officer of equal rank, and soldier for soldier.” The settled disinclination of the enemy to fixing general and permanent rules, adequate to all the cases of captivity, have obliged us to content ourselves with partial and particular exchanges; and, from every thing that has happened, their ideas are so remote from ours, that there is little reason to expect any future negotiation would be attended with more success than the past, or that we should ever be able to unite in a Tariff, which would have no other object than the relief of prisoners on terms of equal advantage. While this continues a secondary motive with the enemy, & the augmentation of their force by a large accession of privates the ruling one, nothing of that kind can be expected. If we, therefore, renounce particular exchanges on the former plan, the prisoners will have no other prospect before them, than that of hopeless captivity.
I would wish you, in your answer to Mr. Loring, to represent these things to him in a decent but pointed manner, to make him sensible of the inconsistency of his conduct, and the ill-consequences it must produce; informing him at the same time, that we will not hereafter make any exchanges whatsoever, unless they extend to officers & privates indiscriminately, on the footing which has heretofore obtained. The instructions I have already given you, on the subject of composition, are not to be exceeded; and I would wish the question of privates for officers to be avoided, as I am certain, from the unreasonableness of the enemy on this head, that it can answer no other purpose, than to perplex and impede the business. If in treating of a Tariff, Mr. Loring persists in pressing Conway’s cartel as a model, he can be very justly told, that the circumstances of the parties in the present war differ much from those of France and England, at the time of that treaty, and that these are the only proper standard by which to regulate our agreements.
You will insist on your second proposition, informing the enemy, that this mode is not without reference to their wishes, but to discourage the practice of breaking paroles, and establish a distinction between the violators and the scrupulous observers; that their interest can be no way affected by it, and consequently they can have no reasonable objection. As to the third answer, you will explicitly inform them, that I have nothing to do with those persons, not military prisoners, who have broken their paroles, either to exchange or return them; that I do not consider them as proper subjects of military capture, in the first instance, nor hold myself bound to restore them to a state of captivity, in which they were first placed, contrary to the usages of nations.
Col. Webb’s exchange by composition we cannot claim as a matter of right, but I wish every method in our power to be taken to induce the enemy to consent to it. The pretext of not being willing to continue partial exchanges is forced and ridiculous; the more, as there are such recent instances in the cases of Edmondston & Featherstone. You must plead the constant practice heretofore; the generous treatment shown to the prisoners taken in the Eagle; the obligation in point of honor and justice, upon the enemy to return an equivalent; and the proposals, they themselves have made at different times for particular exchanges by composition. You will observe to them, that the gentlemen taken in the Eagle are not under a parole, but absolutely released and at liberty to act; that by an authentic act of their consul at Corunna they have incurred a debt, which they cannot without a flagrant breach of faith refuse to pay; that the exchange, so far as it depends on us, is already made, and that they have no choice but to make a return. You will demand an explanation of what they mean by “the former principles”; whether it is, that they are ready to return an equal number, of equal ranks, on the former principle of equality of rank, or whether they refuse to make a return for these, unless the terms of their first proposition are complied with. After you have prepared your answer in the spirit of these instructions, you will let me have a view of it. I am, &c.
TO MAJOR BENJAMIN TALLMADGE.
I this morning recd. your letter of the 22d with its several enclosures.
It is not my opinion, that Culper Junr.1 should be advised to give up his present employment. I would imagine, that with a little industry he will be able to carry on his intelligence with greater security to himself, and greater advantages to us, under cover of his usual business, than if he were to dedicate himself wholly to the giving of information. It may afford him opportunities of collecting intelligence, that he could not derive so well in any other manner. It prevents also those suspicions, which would become natural, should he throw himself out of the line of his present employment. He may rest assured of every proper attention being paid to his services. One thing appears to me deserving of his particular consideration, as it will not only render his communication less exposed to detection, but relieve the fears of such persons as may be entrusted with its conveyance to the second link in the chain, and of course very much facilitate the object we have in view; I mean, that he should occasionally write his information on the blank leaves of a pamphlet, on the first, second, &c. pages of a common pocket-book, or on the blank leaves at each end of registers, almanacs, or any new publication or book of small value. He should be determined in the choice of these books principally by the goodness of the blank paper, as the ink is not easily legible unless it is on paper of good quality. Having settled a plan of this kind with his friend, he may forward them without risque of search, or the scrutiny of the enemy, as this is chiefly directed against paper made up in the form of letters.
I would add a further hint on this subject. Even letters may be made more subservient to this communication, than they have yet been. He may write a familiar letter on domestic affairs, or on some little matters of business, to his friend at Satauket or elsewhere, interlining with the stain his secret intelligence, or writing it on the opposite blank side of the letter. But that his friend may know how to distinguish these from letters addressed solely to himself, he may always leave such as contain secret information without date or place (dating it with the stain), or fold them up in a particular manner, which may be concerted between the parties. This last appears to be the best mark of the two, and may be the signal of their being designed for me. The first mentioned mode, however, or that of the books, appears to me the one least liable to detection.1 I am, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL LINCOLN.
West-point 28th, September, 1779.
My dear Sir,
I received your letter of the 8th of July, with that pleasure which we always experience in hearg. from those for whom we have a real esteem. The details you gave me of your attack upon Stono Ferry are obliging and satisfactory; and “though all was not done which you wished,” I have no doubt that the attempt had a good effect, and at least accelerated the retreat of the enemy. It did no discredit to our arms, even by their accounts.
I am chagrined at the delays, which the intended succors from Virginia have met with, the more as by my last accounts they continue. I hope, however, they may still arrive in time to be useful, and that you may not be disappointed in your other operations. Notwithstanding the embarrassed situation of the enemy, I am far from being satisfied they will not make another and more vigorous effort to the southward this campaign. They have very powerful motives to it. The full possession of Georgia and the acquisition of South Carolina would be a good counterpoise to their losses in the Islands. It would give credit to their cause in Europe, favor negotiations in the winter, or help to gain friends for a further prosecution of the war. It would also open new sources of supplies, of which they now stand in need, both on the continent and in the West Indies, from the superiority in the English channel, which the junction of Spain must have produced, and the restraint it will impose upon exportations from England and Ireland. I see no better purpose to which they can apply their army in America. Inferior in naval force in the Islands, they cannot think of recovering those they have lost, or of acquiring others. To garrison and preserve the remainder seems to be all they can reasonably have in view. If they make a detachment of four or five thousand men, in addition to the troops already there, it will in my opinion be sufficient for this purpose. Then, by evacuating Rhode Island, they may spare three or four thousand more for operations in your quarter, and keep a garrison of nine or ten thousand men for the defence of New York and its dependencies, which, from its particular shape and insular situation, and the works they have raised and are raising, would be pretty well out of the reach of any enterprise on our part, without the coöperation of a fleet.1
The possibility of an aid of this kind will indeed be an objection to the measure I am supposing; and the ideas of the enemy under their present discouragements may perhaps more naturally embrace plans of more security than conquest. But upon the whole, the probability of the latter is sufficiently great to require every precaution on our side. Southern operations appear to have been for some time past a favorite object in the British cabinet. The weakness of the southern States affords a strong temptation; the advantages are important and inviting; and even the desperate aspect of their affairs itself may inspire a spirit of enterprise and teach the necessity of some bold stroke to counterbalance their misfortunes and disgraces, and to restore their reputation and influence.
The enclosed extracts contain, substantially, the most authentic intelligence I have received of the enemy’s motions and designs. You will perceive they are making large detachments, and that the southern States are spoken of as a principal object. The particular corps, too, which are mentioned, point that way. They would not separate their grenadiers and light infantry, but for some important coup de main; and this I imagine is the manner in which they would proceed against Charlestown. Nor do I see where, except with you, they can intend to employ their cavalry. But there may be a mistake in this part of the intelligence, from the difficulty of ascertaing. corps with precision; and some movements among those, which are specified, may have occasioned a deception. A variety of correspondent accounts of late has led us to a belief, that Count d’Estaing sailed from the Cape early in August, bound to some part of this continent. From the direction he took when an American vessel parted with him, on the 23d Augt., Georgia, or St. Augustine, or both, were supposed to be his destination. If this were the case, you must have had knowledge of his operations long since; but a vessel just arrived at the Eastward, amuses us with a story of her having seen him in the latitude of Bermudas, where it is said he took the captain of this vessel on board as a pilot. The period of time, to which this event is referred, is the 10th inst.; but the Count has not yet made his appearance on this coast. Perhaps the winds, which have been contrary, have retarded him. Perhaps Halifax is the point to which his attention is directed; or perhaps the whole tale is a contrivance; though it comes to me with strong circumstances of probability. I have no doubt that you will make every exertion in your power to be prepared for the worst; and I hope you will be effectually seconded by the States immediately interested, and who also are near enough to give you the necessary succor. It is to be lamented, that the distance and other circumstances are insurmountable barriers to the support of any part of the troops here. With the truest esteem and regard, &c.
TO GOVERNOR TRUMBULL.
The irregularities and injuries, which have been committed against the Inhabitants of Long Island, and of other places in the possession of the Enemy, by persons who professed to have no other views than these men profess, as Your Excellency observes, have been exceedingly great; and I do not believe it will be possible to prevent a repetition of them, but by wholly discountenancing and prohibiting the business in the manner Your Excellency has already done, or that any line of discrimination can be established. But however this might be, I have no alternative in the case, Congress having, by their Act of the 22d of June, enjoined it in a particular manner on all the officers of the army to use their exertions to prevent the parties from going to Long Island, or other places in the possession of the Enemy, under the idea of seizing or destroying Tory property. The distinction between Whig and Tory, Friend and Foe, is so easy to set up, especially where it is the interest of such parties to do it, that even many of our best and fast friends, under the pretext of their being of the latter sort, have had their property wrested from them in the most unjustifiable, cruel, and impolitic manner.
I received last night a South Carolina paper, of the 8th Inst., by which it appears, that an officer of Count d’Estaing’s had arrived at Charleston with despatches, announcing that the Count and his fleet were near that Coast.1 I flatter myself our next advices from thence will inform us, that his Excellency has struck some important and interesting stroke against the enemy in the Southern Quarter. I have the honor to be, &c.
TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE, PARIS.
West-Point, 30 September, 1779.
My dear Marquis,
A few days ago I wrote you a letter in much haste. The cause, a sudden notification of Monsr. Gerard’s having changed the place of his embarkation from Boston (as was expected) to Philadelphia, and the hurry Monsr. de la Columbe was in to reach the latter before the minister should have left it. Since that, I have been honor’d with the company of the Chevalier de la Luzerne, and by him was favord with your obliging letter of the 12th of June, which filled me with equal pleasure and surprise; the latter at hearing that you had not received one of the many letters I had written to you since you left the American shore. I cannot at this time charge my memory with the precise dates of these letters. But the first, which ought and I expected would have reached you at Boston, and I much wished it to do so, (because it contained a Letter from me to Doctr. Franklin expressive of the Sentiments I entertained of your Services and Merit) was put into the hands of a Capt. McQueen, of Charles Town, who was to sail from Phila. soon after. In March again I wrote you once or twice, and in June, or the first of July, following, (when it was reported that Monsr. Gerard was about to leave us I took the liberty of committing to his care another of my letters to you), which several efforts, though they may have been unsuccessful, will exhibit no bad specimen of my having kept you constantly in remembrance, and a desire of giving you proofs of it.
It gave me infinite pleasure to hear, from yourself, of the favorable reception you met with from your sovereign, and of the joy, which your safe arrival in France had diffused among your friends. I had no doubt, but that this wou’d be the case. To hear it from yourself adds pleasure to the acct.; and here, my dear friend, let me congratulate you on your new, honorable, and pleasing appointment in the army commanded by the Count de Vaux, which I shall accom’y with an assurance, that none can do it with more warmth of affection, or sincere joy, than myself.1 Your forward zeal in the cause of liberty; Your singular attachment to this infant world; your ardent and persevering efforts, not only in America, but since your return to France, to serve the United States; your polite attention to Americans, and your strict and uniform friendship for me, has ripened the first impressions of esteem and attachment, which I imbibed for you, into such perfect love and gratitude, that neither time nor absence can impair. Which will warrant my assuring you, that, whether in the character of an officer at the head of a corps of gallant French, (if circumstances should require this,) whether as a major-genl. commanding a division of the American army, or whether, after our Swords and spears have given place to the ploughshare and pruning-Hook, I see you as a private gentleman, a friend and companion, I shall welcome you in all the warmth of friendship to Columbia’s shores; and, in the latter case, to my rural cottage, where homely fare and a cordial reception shall be substituted for delicacies and costly living. This, from past experience, I know you can submit to; and if the lovely partner of your happiness will consent to participate with us in such rural entertainment and amusem’ts, I can undertake, in behalf of Mrs. Washington, that she will do every thing in her power to make Virginia agreeable to the Marchioness. My inclination and endeavors to do this cannot be doubted, when I assure you, that I love every body that is dear to you, consequently participate in the pleasure you feel in ye prospt. of again becoming a parent, and do most sincerely congratulate you and your Lady on this fresh pledge she is about to give you of her love.
I thank you for the trouble you have taken and your polite attention, in favoring me with a copy of your letter to Congress; and feel, as I am persuaded they must do, the force of such ardent zeal as you there express for the interests of this Country. The propriety of the hint you have given them must carry conviction, and I trust will have a salutary effect1 ; tho there is not, I believe, the same occasion for the admonition now, there was several months ago. Many late changes have taken place in that honorable body, which have removed in a very great degree, if not wholly, the discordant spirit which, it is said, prevailed in the winter; and I hope measures will also be taken to remove those unhappy and improper differences, which have extended themselves elsewhere, to the prejudice of our affairs in Europe. * * *
I have had great pleasure in the visit, which the Chevalier de la Luzerne and Monsieur Marbois did me the honor to make at this camp; for both of whom I have imbibed the most favorable impressions, and I thank you for the honorable mention you made of me to them. The Chevr., till he had announced himself to Congress, did not choose to be received in his public character. If he had, except paying him military honors, it was not my intention to depart from that plain and simple manner of living, which accords with the real Interest and policy of men struggling under every difficulty for the attainment of the most inestimable blessing of life, Liberty. The Chevalier was polite enough to approve my principle, and condescended to appear pleased with our Spartan living. In a word, he made us all exceedingly happy by his affability and good humor, while he remained in camp.
You are pleased, my dear Marquis, to express an earnest desire of seeing me in France, (after the establishment of our independency), and do me the honor to add, that you are not singular in your request. Let me entreat you to be persuaded, that to meet you any where, after the final accomplishment of so glorious an event, would contribute to my happiness; and that to visit a county, to whose generous aid we stand so much indebted, would be an additional pleasure; but remember, my good friend, that I am unacquainted with your language, that I am too far advanced in years to acquire a knowledge of it, and that, to converse through the medium of an interpreter upon common occasions, especially with the Ladies, must appear so extremely awkward, insipid, and uncouth, that I can scarce bear it in idea. I will, therefore, hold myself disengaged for the present; but when I see you in Virginia, we will talk of this matter and fix our plans.
The declaration of Spain, in favor of France has given universal joy to every Whig; while the poor Tory droops, like a withering flower under a declining Sun. We are anxiously expecting to hear of great and important events on your side the Atlantic. At present, the imagination is left in the wide field of conjecture. Our eyes one moment are turned to an Invasion of England, then of Ireland, Minorca, Gibraltar, &c. In a word, we hope every thing, but know not what to expect, or where to fix. The glorious successes of Count d’Estaing in the West Indies, at the same time that it adds dominion to France, and fresh lustre to her arms, is a source of new and unexpected misfortune to our tender and generous parent, and must serve to convince her of the folly of quitting the substance in pursuit of the shadow; and, as there is no experience equal to that which is bought, I trust she will have a superabundance of this kind of knowledge, and be convinced, as I hope all the world and every tyrant in it will, that the best and only safe road to honor, glory, and true dignity, is justice.
We have such repeated advices of Count d’Estaing’s being in these seas, that, (though I have no official information of the event,) I cannot help giving entire credit to the report, and looking for his arrival every moment, and am preparing accordingly. The enemy at New York also expect it; and, to guard against the consequences, as much as it is in their power to do, are repairing and strengthening all the old fortifications, and adding new ones in the vicinity of the City. Their fears, however, does not retard an embarcation, which was making, (and generally believed) to be for the West Indies or Charles Town. It still goes forward; and, by my intelligence, will consist of a pretty large detachment. About 14 days ago, one British Regiment (44th compleated) and 3 Hessian regiments embarked, and are gone, as is supposed to Halifax,1 under convoy of Admiral Arbuthnot about the 20th of last month. The Enemy recd. a reinforcemt. consisting of 2 new raised Scotch Regts. some drafts and a few recruits amounting altogether to about 3,000 men; and a few days ago Sir Andw. Hammond arriv’d with (as it is said) abt. 2,000 more. Many of these new Troops died on their passage and since landing ye rest are very sickly—as indeed their whole army is, while ours keeps remarkably healthy. The operations of the enemy this campaign have been confined to the establishment of works of defence, taking a post at King’s Ferry, and burning the defenceless towns of New Haven, Fairfield, and Norwalk, &c. on the Sound within reach of their shipping, where little else was or could be opposed to them, than the cries of distressed women and helpless children; but these were offered in vain. Since these notable exploits, they have never stepped out of their works or beyond their lines. How a conduct of this kind is to effect the conquest of America, the wisdom of a North, a Germaine, or Sandwich best can tell. It is too deep and refined for the comprehension of common understandings and general run of politicians. * * *
But to conclude you requested from me a long letter—I have given you one—but methinks my dear Marquis I hear you say there is reason in all things—that this is too long—I am clearly in sentiment with you and will have mercy on you in my next—But at present must pray your patience a while longer, till I can make a tender of my most respectful compliments to the Marchioness.—Tell her, (if you have not made a mistake and offered your own love instead of hers, to me) that I have a heart susceptable of the tenderest passion, and that it is already so strongly impressed with the most favorable ideas of her, that she must be cautious of putting loves torch to it, as you must be in fanning the flame.—But here again methinks I hear you say, I am not apprehensive of danger—My wife is young—you are growing old and the Atlantic is between you—All this is true, but know my good friend that no distance can keep anxious lovers long asunder, and that the wonders of former ages may be revived in this—But alas! will you not remark that amidst all the wonders recorded in holy writ no instance can be produced where a young Woman from real inclination has prefered an old man—This is so much against me that I shall not be able I fear to contest the prize with you—yet, under the encouragement you have given me I shall enter the list for so inestimable a jewell.
I will now reverse the scene and inform you that Mrs. Washington, (who set out for Virginia when we took the field in June,) often has in her letters to me inquired if I had heard from you, and will be much pleased at hearing that you are well and happy. In her name, (as she is not here,) I thank you for your polite attention to her, and shall speak her sense of the honor conferred on her by the Marchioness. When I look back to the length of this letter, I am so much astonished and frightened at it myself that, I have not the courage to give it a careful reading for the purpose of correction. You must, therefore, receive it with all its imperfections, accompanied with this assurance, that, though there may be inaccuracies in the letter, there is not a single defect in the friendship of, my dear Marquis, yours, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
I had the honor of receiving your Excellency’s letter of the 26th and 27th ultimo, at half after twelve o’clock yesterday.
Immediately upon the Receipt of it, I set about concerting the measures necessary for a coöperation with His Excellency the Count d’Estaing, agreeably to the powers vested in me by the Resolve of Congress1 of the 26th Ulto. I have called upon the State of Massachusetts for 2000 militia, Connecticut for 4000, New York for 2500, New Jersey for 2000, and Pennsylvania for 1500. The last is below the quota, that she ought to furnish, in proportion to her strength; but I was induced to make a requisition of that number only, upon a consideration that we shall be obliged to call largely upon that State for the means of transportation of provisions and supplies of all kinds. I have also taken the liberty to press the States above mentioned to use the most vigorous exertions in procuring supplies of provision, especially of flour, for the want of which I fear we shall be much embarrassed, should we draw such a head of men together, as will be necessary to give our operations a tolerable prospect of success. I have not heard from General Sullivan but by report, since the 30th August. I have however despatched an Express to him, (upon a supposition that he has compleated the object of his expedition and is upon his return,) desiring him to hasten his march, and directing him to leave as few men as he possibly can in the frontier garrisons. I have also written to General Gates, desiring him to hold all the Continental troops under his command ready to march this way, should the Count d’Estaing, upon settling a plan of operations, determine upon an attempt against New York. But as there is a possibility that he may, upon being made acquainted with the numbers and situation of the enemy, prefer an attack upon Rhode Island, I have desired General Gates to be looking towards and preparing for such an event. I had, upon the first report of the Count’s standing towards this Coast, stationed Major Lee in Monmouth, with a letter for him, to be carried on board upon his first appearance, in which I informed him of the enemy’s force by Sea and land, and their position at that time, and pointed out to him the measures, which I thought it would be most advantageous for him to pursue upon his arrival.
I am preparing fresh letters for him, in which I shall inform him fully of all posterior Events, and the measures I am taking for a coöperation. I am also engaging and sending down proper pilots to him. I have taken the liberty to countermand the march of Colo. Clarke with the two Regiments of North Carolina, upon a presumption, that, from the favorable aspect of affairs to the southward, I shall stand justifiable for such a measure. I observe by a Resolve of Congress lately transmitted to me, that three of the Continental Frigates were ordered to South Carolina. I do not know the views of Congress in making this disposition; but, should they have no particular object in contemplation, I would venture to recommend their being ordered to join the Count’s Fleet, which in my opinion would be much benefited by an additional number of Frigates, especially for the navigation of the North River and the Sound. I think it would be also well should the Marine Committee be directed to turn their attention to the transportation of Flour from the Delaware and Chesapeake by Water. Should we obtain the command of the Sea, Vessels might, without the least danger, be introduced within the Hook, thence to Amboy, from whence their Cargoes might easily be conveyed in Boats up Newark Bay. Or should some of them run round into the Sound, it would be equally, nay, more convenient. Should we operate to the eastward, measures of this kind will be indispensably necessary, as the length and difficulty of land Carriage will render the support of any considerable Body of men almost impossible. The Wheat of Maryland being in more forwardness for grinding, than any other, I could wish that Governor Johnson may be requested to push the purchases within that State. The Commissary-General gives the fullest encouragement on the score of Beef, but of Flour he continues to express his fears. I am, &c.1
TO COUNT D’ESTAING.
West Point, 4 October, 1779.
* * * * * *
I beg leave to enclose a copy of the abovementioned letter,2 and the substance of the intelligence since received. Your Excellency will observe, that only two detachments of troops have sailed from New York; one consisting of three German and one British regiment for Halifax or Quebec, and the other composed of the grenadiers, light infantry, and one British regiment, supposed to be destined to the southern States. I have not received any account of the debarkation of the Halifax detachment, and I believe it has prosecuted its voyage. One of the transports has been taken and carried into Philadelphia, with one hundred and sixty men on board. She reports Halifax to have been her destination. I have reason to believe, from some information recently obtained, that the latter detachment has returned.1 These, however, are not altogether authentic; but I am the more inclined to give them credit, as I think it probable they were bound to South Carolina, and in their way may have heard of your Excellency’s arrival in that quarter, which would naturally occasion their return to New York.
The enemy’s force in New York and its dependencies, supposing the return of the above detachment, I now estimate at fourteen thousand. Their fleet consists of the Russell of seventy-four, the Europa of sixty-four, the Renown of fifty, the Roebuck of forty-four, and a few smaller frigates. Your Excellency will perceive, that their affairs are in a fluctuating state; and therefore many changes may have taken place since my last advices.
From the advanced season of the year, every instant of time is infinitely precious, and must be even more so to your Excellency than to us. This makes it to be lamented, that it had not been possible to preconcert a plan before your arrival. The force under your command, and the time you can devote to this business, are essential points in determining what can with propriety be undertaken; and the first steps will be of great consequence to all the succeeding ones. To enable you the better to regulate your own movements, I shall expose to you our prospects, and the different plans which present themselves to me, with the obstacles attending each.
New York is the first and capital object, upon which every other is dependent. The loss of the army and fleet there would be one of the severest blows the English nation could experience. Rhode Island would fall of course; but your Excellency will be sensible, that the reduction of fourteen thousand men, concentred upon a small Island with the assistance of fortifications, is an enterprise of no inconsiderable difficulty; and requires a vigorous exertion of our resources, in conjunction with your force, to give it a sufficient probability of success. Not less than thirty thousand men will in my opinion be adequate to the operation, and we cannot collect the numbers necessary on our part, in addition to what we already have in the field, in less than three weeks from this time. The interval between your arrival and that period must for the most part be spent in a state of inactivity on your side, unless you judge it proper to direct your attention to an attempt upon Rhode Island.
The knowledge you have of this place will enable you, better than me, to decide on the eligibility of this project. The garrison there is respectable, and, as I am informed, secured by a chain of redoubts and retrenchments from one flank of the Island to the other, which would be exceedingly formidable to an assault. The town however may be burnt, and with it the enemy’s magazines, which it is probable would speedily reduce them to a surrender. Your Excellency is a better judge than I am of the time, which would be exhausted in this enterprise; but I should imagine it might require at least four weeks for its accomplishment. If you should think proper to pursue this plan, we have a body of two thousand troops now ready at Rhode Island, and can march thither any additional number you may deem necessary for a coöperation. But in order to this, I must request you will give me previous notice of your intention.
Success in this attempt would be favorable to our ulterior operations against New York, but a failure would be attended with the reverse, as it would damp the spirits of the country and diminish its exertions. Another inconvenience would attend it, which is, that, without a division of your force to continue the blockade of New York, the fleet now there would make its escape. Indeed, in any plan, a division of your force will be indispensable. Rhode Island and the Sound must be blockaded, otherwise the garrison there will form a junction with the main body at New York, which would be so great an accession of force, as would render the success of our operations improbable; and the frigates and smaller vessels may find a passage through the Sound, and elude your Excellency in that way. But the difference is this. In the latter case, two or three fifty-gun ships, and as many frigates, will answer the purpose. In the former, some of your ships of the line must be left at New York, to have a superiority to the two that are there, aided by the frigates. In case of the attempt upon Rhode Island, the only expedient, to avoid a division of your ships of the line, will be, to remain with the whole at New York, and send your troops round under the protection of your frigates. Your Excellency is the best judge with what propriety a movement of this kind can be hazarded.
In either event, it appears to me advisable, that you should first enter the bay of New York, with a part at least, of your fleet, and, as suddenly as possible, intercept the troops on Staten Island, and the garrisons up the river, as the capture of these will materially facilitate the reduction of the remaining force; and I take the liberty strongly to recommend, that a proper detachment may without loss of time block up the Sound and the port of Rhode Island. I have taken measures for furnishing you with pilots; one of them accompanies this letter; but I have directed three or four to be stationed with Major Lee at Monmouth, to put off to your Excellency on your first appearance. Among these is one, who is acquainted with the navigation of the North River, in its present state, and will be able to take up the frigates, which I had the honor to request might proceed into Haverstraw Bay.
I have written to Congress, to recommend the assembling all our frigates and armed vessels, to act in conjunction with the fleet under your command.
With candor and freedom have I exposed to your Excellency my sentiments and expectations; and I entreat that you will honor me with a similar communication of your views and intentions. Nothing will give me greater pleasure, than to concur with these to the utmost of our ability.
I have not concealed the difficulties in the way of a co-operation, because I thought it my duty fully to apprize you of them. I am persuaded, that you will ascribe what I have said to the proper motive, and to that caution, which ought always to influence enterprises pregnant with such interesting consequences. You will not impute it to an unwillingness to exert the resources of the country, or to a distrust of the event; for, I assure your Excellency, I feel the importance of this generous and seasonable succor, and have the highest hopes of its utility to the common cause, and a termination glorious to the allied arms. I rejoice in the opportunity it affords; nor is the prospect of acting in immediate conjunction with your Excellency one of the least flattering circumstances. I shall with the greatest alacrity concur in the execution of any plan, which shall be thought advancive of the interest and glory of the two nations, and may add to the laurels you have already reaped in so distinguished a manner. I hope soon to have the pleasure of assuring you personally of those sentiments of respectful attachment, with which I have the honor to be, your Excellency’s, &c.
P. S.—Mr. Holker, soon after your Excellency left Boston, communicated to me your desire to have the navigation of Hell Gate ascertained. I have taken the greatest pains to answer your views, and the result of my inquiries is, that never more than a fifty gun ship has gone thro’ that passage, and this with difficulty and hazard. A larger ship it is believed could not pass. The reasons are not a want of depth of water, but the extreme narrowness of the channel, the rapidity of the current, whirlpools, and rocks. The least missteerage will precipitate the vessel on the Banks and shoals on either side, and the power which the current and whirlpools have upon larger vessels, would make it almost impossible to keep them in their proper course. The only time when this passage is practicable for ships of any burthen, is at the height of flood tide.
I have since writing the foregoing learned that the Renown of 50 guns, and not the Raisonable of 64, conveyed the detachment to Halifax. We may therefore suppose that the Raisonable is in the harbor of New York.
TO COUNT D’ESTAING.
Since my letter to your Excellency, on the 4th instant, I have had the honor of a visit from his Excellency Monsieur Gerard. In the conversation we had relative to a co-operation with the fleet and troops under your command, he expressed his doubts of its being possible for you to continue such a length of time as may be essential to the success of the undertaking, and which alone could justify me in going into those extensive preparations absolutely necessary on our part. I have therefore appointed Brigadier-General Duportail and Colonel Hamilton to wait upon your Excellency as speedily as possible, and explain to you fully my ideas of the proposed co-operation; the means we shall be able to employ; the obstacles we shall have to encounter on our side; the plans which it may be proper to pursue; and the measures which are taking and may be taken by the enemy to counteract them. This will enable your Excellency to determine what you can with propriety undertake. I shall only add, that if you will engage to co-operate with your whole naval and land force against the enemy’s fleet and army at New York, till the winter is so far advanced, that the ice will make it impracticable to remain with your fleet any longer in the port, I will bring twenty-five thousand effective men into the field, and will exert all the resources of the country in a vigorous and decided co-operation. Without this assurance on the part of your Excellency, it would be inconsistent with my duty to the public, and to the common cause, to incur the expense and hazard which would be inseparable from the enterprise, and the more disagreeable consequences, which would attend a failure.
I flatter myself your Excellency will be fully sensible of the weight of the reasons on which this declaration is founded, and will approve the frankness with which it is made, and with which I have instructed General Duportail and Colonel Hamilton to disclose to you every circumstance and every consideration, with which it is necessary you should be acquainted. If your determination should be in favor of the enterprise, I request you will honor me with a line in answer to this letter, expressive of your ultimate intentions, and that you will communicate to the gentlemen, who now wait upon you, the previous measures you propose to pursue, and your sentiments of the most eligible plan of co-operation. I shall act in consequence, till the period arrives for concerting a final and more determinate plan.
I would now observe, that you may repose the most implicit confidence in General Duportail and Colonel Hamilton, and accordingly I recommend them to your kind civilities and attention. And having done this, I have only to renew the assurance of that attachment and perfect respect, with which I am, &c.
TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE.
West-Point, 20 October, 1779.
My Dear Marqs.,
On the 30th of last month, I wrote you a letter, which in point of length would almost extend from hence to Paris—It was to have been borne to you by Colonel Fleury, to whom the relation of some particulars was referred; but the advice of Count d’Estaing’s arrival at Georgia, and the hope given us by Congress of seeing him at New York, has induced this officer to suspend his voyage, to go in pursuit of fresh laurels: of course my letter to you remained on hand, and gave me an opportunity at leizure (hours) to take a copy of it, which is now sent by Monsr. de la Colombe. The original I put into the hands of Monsr. Gerard a few days ago, who gave me the honor of a visit before his departure for his native Country.
We have been in hourly expectation, for the last 15 days, of seeing Count d’Estaing off Sandy-hook. We have not heard a syllable from Charles Town in So. Carolina since the 8th of September. The accts. then mentioned, that the Count intended to make his attack the next day. Under such circumstances, you may easily form an idea of our impatience and anxiety. We are making every preparation in our power for an extensive and perfect co-operation with the fleet, (if it comes;) while the enemy, whose expectation of it keeps pace with ours, are equally vigorous in preparing for defence. They are throwing up strong works at the Narrows, both on long Island and Staten Island. They are fortifying the point at Sandy-hook, (on which the light-Ho. stands,) and every other spot, which can contribute to the defence either of the harbor or the City. Besides which, they have already sunk eight and have 12 more large ships to sink in the channel within the light-House; and Transports are gone to Rhode Island, with the view, it is said, to take off the garrison. In a word, if they are not horribly frightened, they certainly are in horrid confusion. They work incessantly, and will, it is to be feared, render the entrance into the harbor extremely difficult, if not impracticable, if the operations to the southward should delay the Count much if any longer.
General Sullivan has compleated the entire destruction of the country of the Six Nations; driven all the Inhabitants, men, women, and children, out of it; and is at Easton on his return to join this army, with the Troops under his command. He has performed this service without losing 40 men, either by the enemy or by sickness. While the Six Nations were under this rod of correction, the Mingo and Muncy tribes, living on the Aligany, French Creek, and other waters of the Ohio above Fort Pitt, met with similar chastisemt. from Colo. Brodhead, who with 600 men advanced upon them at the same Instt., and laid waste their Country. These unexpected and severe strokes has disconcerted, humbled, and distressed the Indians exceedingly; and will, I am persuaded, be productive of great good; as they are undeniable proofs to them, that Great Britain cannot protect them, and that it is in our power to chastise them, whenever their hostile condnct deserves it.
The embarkation, mentioned in my letter of the 30th of Septr., did actually take place, and consisted of near 6,000 men, (the flower of the British army,) under the command of Lord Cornwallis, who with these Troops sailed the 25th of that month; and two days afterwards returned, having received some Intelligence of the Count d’Estaing being on the coast of Georgia, whither, it is said, this armament was destined. They are relanded and now at N. York. The first detachment from the place, supposed to have sailed for Halifax, but in reality designed for Canada, (consisting, as I mentioned to you in my last, of the 44th compleated British, and two Hessian regiments,) met with a storm at Sea, which dispersed the transports, two of which, containing near 400 Hessians, fell into our hands, and are now in Phila.; two others returned to New York dismasted. Of the others, no acct. is yet obtained.
Before this letter reaches you, you will no doubt have heard, that Mr. Jay, (late President of Congress,) goes minister Plenipot. to the court of Madrid, and Mr. Carmichael as his Secretary; that Mr. John Adams returns to your court for special purposes, and Mr. Dana goes as his Secretary; and that Mr. John Laurens (my aid), who flew to South Carolina, when his country was in danger, is appointed secretary to Doctr. Franklin; but whether he will accept or not, I cannot say, as I have not seen him since the month of March last.1
* * * * * *
It only remains for me now to beg the favor of you to present my respectful compliment to your (but have I not a right, as you say she has made a tender of her love to me, to call her my?) amiable & lovely Marchioness, & to assure you, that, with every sentiment of the most perfect regard and personal attachmt, I have the honor to be, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
I have been honored with your Excellency’s favor of the 14th, enclosing an act of Congress of the same date, expressive of their sense of the plan and execution of the expedition under the command of Major-General Sullivan. I feel it a principal satisfaction, that the discharge of my duty and the conduct of the troops should meet with the approbation of Congress. Herewith your Excellency will receive an extract of a letter from Colonel Brodhead, relative to his expedition against the Mingo & Muncy Indians, and that part of the Senecas on the Allegany River. I congratulate you on his success.
By very recent accounts from the posts at King’s Ferry, it would appear that every thing is in the utmost readiness for an immediate evacuation of Verplanck and Stony Points. It is however by no means evident, whether the evacuation is to be immediate, (tho this would rather seem the intention,) or only to be executed in case of the Count’s appearing against New York. The enemy at New York continue their preparations to provide against a combined attack, and for a concentration of their whole force. They are taking measures also to render the passage to them by water as difficult as possible. A letter from Elizabeth-Town reports, that eight ships, (one of which is the Strombolo, an Indiaman,) are sunk on the buoy on the point of the East bank, an exact S. west course. Ten others are lying ready to sink, from the point of the west bank in a line to where the others terminate, leaving a space only for one ship to pass at a time.”
In a letter from General Gates, of the 15th instant he writes to me:
“My intelligence from all quarters and reports from all stations announce the enemy are preparing to evacuate Newport. Monday or Tuesday it is imagined they will take their departure. A deserter from the 22d regiment, mortally wounded, but rescued by a party of our soldiers, declares, the whole of the troops now on Rhode Island are bound to the West Indies; this may be, but I believe they will first visit New York.”
This is the substance of my intelligence since my last communication with Congress. I have the honor, &c.1
TO PRESIDENT REED.
West Point, Oct. 22d, 1779.
Three days ago I received your obliging favor of the 14th, and was sorry to find you had been so much indisposed. Before this, I hope you have perfectly recovered. Your early attention, and that of the Assembly, to my requisitions, have my warmest thanks; and the more so, from the situation in which they found you. I could wish, however, that the three months’ service of the Militia had been made to commence only from the time of their joining the army. I need not enter into a detail of reasons for this with you, as your own judgment and experience will, I am persuaded, have already anticipated them. Your intention of leading your Militia, in case they are brought to the field, is a circumstance honorable to yourself, and flattering to me. The example alone would have its weight; but, seconded by your knowledge of discipline, abilities, activity, and bravery, it could not fail of happy effects. Men are influenced greatly by the conduct of their superiors, and particularly so, where they have both their confidence and affection.
With respect to the point to which you call my recollection, I confess, when you intimated your desire of Continental rank to me, as it passed cursorily through my mind, it struck me as a matter of indifference; or at least as one against which no important objections then occurred, inasmuch as it was to have no operation in the line. However, I must now candidly acknowledge, and I shall do it without hesitation, from motives of general duty, from a confidence in your friendship, as well as in your zeal for the public service, and from the express authority of your letter, that, having maturely weighed the subject, and examined the consequences to which it might lead, I think it cannot be obtained, either with a view to the purpose you mentioned when you first broached the point to me, or with respect to the present occasion for which the militia are called out.
The discontents, the jealousies, the uneasinesses, that have prevailed in the Army, and the complaints which have been added on acct. of rank being conferred out of the common course, are all opposed to the measure. These uneasinesses, my dear Sir, tho’ not quite so prevalent among the different ranks of officers as they were, are far, very far, from being done away; and would, I fear, proceed to more than their former height, upon any supposed injury, whether real or imaginary, to what they esteemed their rights. Among the General Officers, and those next in rank, there would be much reason to apprehend this; as they, (particularly the former,) have loudly complained on the subject of rank being given, even where motives of national policy, and indeed necessity, were urged to justify it; and reluctantly yielded to it, merely from that consideration. From hence, and as in your case this consideration could not be urged, I should fear, that it would be attended with greater disgust; not from any personal, individual objection, but from an idea, that the appointment itself materially affected their rights, and those of the officers in general. Hence it is, that I have uniformly withheld my aid to all applications for brevet commissions to foreigners and others, who had or were about to quit the service, professedly never to interfere with the line of our army.
The situation of our officers is delicate, and perhaps requires a greater degree of attention than that of any others. Deriving no emoluments from the service, but rather losing at the best, patriotism and a love of honor are the motives to their continuing in it. These must be the considerations, which influence the conduct of by far the greatest part; and tho’ by these motives the officers are placed in a much more respectable point of view, than if they were governed by interest, yet the ties are not sufficiently strong to induce their submission or at least without great difficulty, to any measures they esteem injurious. For these several reasons, I cannot in policy advise to any measures, that might have a tendency to obtain it for you. Nor do I think, after mature reflection, that the rank being given by brevet, which is contrary to the present views of Congress and to their own resolves (24th Nov., 1778, and 20 Feb., 1779), founded on the discontents which a contrary practice had created, or circumscribed in its extent by any qualifications which could be thought of, would alter the matter, or produce the least change in the sentiments of the officers. In any case, the ideas of rank and precedence would occur, and, I have too much reason to believe, would give great uneasiness. The temper of the general officers is at this moment a good deal soured. Their distresses, proceeding from the amazing depreciation of money on one hand, and a discrimination of Congress, in the allowance of subsistence, on the other, need no fresh leaven to set their discontents a working. Rank, then, being the greatest if not the only benefit they are likely to derive for their perseverance in service, and injured fortunes, they become more and more tenacious of its value, and attend the distribution of it with a watchful eye.
I have been rather prolix on this subject, but thought it incumbent on me to assign the reasons which govern my opinion; because I wish you to be convinced, that I do not want inclination to comply where I can do it consistently with any of your wishes. With very great regard and esteem, I am, dear Sir.1
TO BENJAMIN HARRISON.
West Point, 25 October, 1779.
My Dear Sir,
Letters of a private nature and for the mere purposes of friendly intercourse are, with me, the production of too much haste to allow time (generally speaking) to take, or make fair copies of them—and my memory (unfortunately for me) is of too defective a frame to furnish the periods at which they were written. But I am much mistaken if I have not, since I came to the present incampment wrote you a full account of the situation of things in this quarter. Your last letter to me was in May.
The Pennsylvania Gazettes which I presume you regularly receive, will have conveyed official accounts to the public of all occurrences of any importance. A repetition would be unnecessary and tedious. But it may not be amiss to observe, that excepting the plundering expedition to Virginia, and the burning one in Connecticut, the enemy have wasted another campaign (till this stage of it, at least) in their shipbound Islands, and strong-holds, without doing a single thing advancive of the end in view, unless by delays and placing their whole dependence in the depreciation of our money, and wretched management of our finances, they expect to accomplish it.
In the meanwhile they have suffered—I do not know what other term to give it—a third part of the Continental troops, which altogether was inferior to theirs, to be employed in the total destruction of all the Country inhabited by the hostile tribes of the Six Nations,—their good and faithful Allies! While the other two thirds, without calling upon the militia for the aid of a single man, excepting upon the Inhabitants in the vicinity of this Post (and that for a few days only) at the time Genl. Clinton moved up the river in the spring, and before we could reach it, restrained their foraging parties, confined them within very circumscribed bounds, at the same time bestowing an immensity of labor on this Post—more important to us, considered in all its consequences—than any other in America.
There is something so truly unaccountable in all this, that I do not know how to reconcile it with their own views, or to any principle of common sense but the fact is nevertheless true. The latter end of May, as I have hinted already, General Clinton moved up to King’s Ferry in force, and possessed himself of Stony and Verplanks Points. Alarmed at this (for I conceived these works and the command of the river in consequence, was really the object, and the other only an advance to it) I hastened to its succor; but the return of the enemy towards the last of June, after having fortified and garrisoned the points, convinced me that that was not their design, or that they had relinquished it till their reinforcements should have arrived—since which these posts have changed masters frequently, and after employing the enemy a whole campaign, costing them near a thousand men in prisoners, by desertion, and other ways, and infinite labor, is at length in statu quo, that is, simply a Continental Ferry again.
The reinforcements from G. Britain under convoy of Adml. Arbuthnot and Sir Andw. Hammond from the best accounts we have received, amounted to about 4,000 men—mostly new recruits and sickly—many having died on their passage and since their arrival.
We are now in appearance, launching into a wide and boundless field—puzzled with mazes and o’erspread with difficulties. A glorious object is in view, and God send we may attain it—sometime ago it was much within the reach of probability; but the season, and the incessant labor of the enemy to secure the city and harbor of New York are much opposed to us and serve to lessen my hopes in proportion as time rolls on. It is now 30 days since Congress gave me official notice of Count d’Estaing’s intended co-operation, and no authentic account of him is since come to hand. The probability therefore is, that we shall have hot work in a cold season.
I have called upon Massachusetts Bay, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, for militia, and every thing being in a proper train for a capital enterprize, to the Gods and our best endeavors the event is committed.
Verplanks and Stoney Point, as I have before observed, are already evacuated, and from every account and appearance, the like will happen at Rhode Island—things being in a train for it. Their whole force then will be concentred at New York, and in regular Troops only, will amount to at least 18,000, besides seamen from near 1,000 sail of vessels of different kinds, Refugees, and the militia of those Islands which are actually in their power, and which they have had employed on their works of defence ever since the first rumor of the French fleets being in these seas.
I have no doubt but that the Assembly of Virginia, at its last session, had cogent reasons for opening the land office; but so far as it respects the army the measure is to be lamented; for I believe, from what I have heard, that it will be a means of breaking up the Virginia line.
I have never read the act with any degree of attention, and at this time, have but an imperfect recollection of the purport of it. But in general conversation I learn from the officers, that by some clause in this or an antecedent act, those who have already taken pains, and have been at expence to secure Lands in that Country, will receive little benefit from either the one or the other, unless some requisites before Commissioners are complied with, and this they add is not to be done, (if I understand them properly) otherwise than by personal attendance. While this operates powerfully upon the minds of all those who have already taken measures to secure an interest in the new world, a desire prevails universally amongst the whole of them to become adventurers before the cream is skimmed.
I am informed that the New York Assembly which is now sitting, mean to make an offer of land to the officers and soldiers of other States, equally with their own, who may incline to take the Continental bounty in it. The policy of this measure may not be unworthy of consideration by the Assembly of Virginia. If it is conceived, that this great country will long continue to be part of the present government of that commonwealth, no measure that can be adopted will, in my opinion, give it a more vigorous growth than the opening of this door, and add more to its population, which ever has been considered the riches of a country.
To any enquiring friends you will please to make a tender of my compliments, and do me the justice to believe that in truth and sincerity, I am, dear Sir.
TO EDMUND PENDLETON.
West-Point, 1 November, 1779.
Recollecting that I am your debtor for an obliging letter, written some time last winter I will while my eyes are turned Southwardly (impatiently looking for or expecting to hear something decisive of Count d’Estaing) make my acknowledgments for it, as a proof that I am not unmindful of the favor, though I have been dilatory in thanking you for it. I shall not at this late period recount to you the occurrences of the past Campaign—I take it for granted that the public Accts. which have been officially handed to ye public have regularly reached you and are as ample as I could give. A new scene, though rather long delayed, is opening to our view, and of sufficient importance to interest the hopes and fears of every well-wisher to his Country, and will engage the attention of all America. This I say, on a supposition that the delays to the southward and the advanced season do not prevent a full and perfect coöperation with the French fleet in this quarter. Be this as it may, every thing in the preparatory way, that depends upon me, is done and doing. To Count d’Estaing, then, and that good Providence, wch. has so remarkably aided us in all our difficulties, the rest is committed.
Stony Point, which has been a bone of contention the whole campaign, and the principal business of it on the part of the enemy, is totally evacuated by them. Rhode Island is also abandoned, and the enemy’s whole force is drawn to a point at New York, where neither pains nor labor have been spar’d to secure the City and harbor; but, in their attempts to effect the latter, some unexpected disappointments have occurred (in sinking their hulks). This makes them more intent on their land batteries, wch. are so disposed as to cover the Town and the shipping equally.
All lesser matters on both sides are suspended, while we are looking to the more important object. The consequences of all these movements are not easy to be foretold. But another campaign having been wasted, having had their arms disgraced, and all their projects blasted, it may be conceiv’d that the enemy, like an enraged monster summoning his whole strength, will make some violent effort, if they should be relieved from their present apprehensions of the French fleet. If they do not detach largely for the West Indies, (and I do not see how this is practicable, while they remain inferior at Sea,) they must, from the disagreeableness of their situation, feel themselves under a kind of necessity of attempting some bold, enterprising stroke, to give in some degree eclat to their arms, spirits to the Tories, and hope to the ministry.
But I am under no apprehension of a capital injury from any other source, than that of the continual depreciation of our Continental money. This indeed is truly alarming, and of so serious a nature, that every other effort is in vain, unless something can be done to restore its credit. Congress, the States individually, and individuals of each State, should exert themselves to effect this great end. It is the only hope, the last resource of the enemy; and nothing but our want of public virtue can induce a continuance of the war. Let them once see, that, as it is in our power, so it is our inclination and intention, to overcome this difficulty, and the idea of conquest, or hope of bringing us back to a state of dependence, will vanish like the morning dew. They can no more encounter this kind of opposition, than the hoar-frost can withstand the rays of an all-chearing sun. The liberty and safety of this country depend upon it. The way is plain, the means are in our power. But it is virtue alone that can effect it. For, without this, heavy taxes frequently collected (the only radical cure), and loans, are not to be obtained. Where this has been the policy, (in Connecticut for instance,) the prices of every article have fallen, and the money consequently is in demand; but in the other States you can scarce get a single thing for it; and yet it is withheld from the public by speculators, while every thing that can be useful to the public is engrossed by this tribe of black gentry, who work more effectually against us than the enemy’s arms; and are a hundd. times more dangerous to our liberties and the great cause we are engaged in. With much truth and regard, I am, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL GATES.
West Point, November 2d, 1779.
After my Letter of yesterday was despatched, I received your Favor of the 27th ulto, from Major Armstrong, by Express from Peekskill. The Major said he had been detained by a want of Horses and bad Roads; and, being charged with despatches more immediately for Congress, he was prevented from calling on me as he wished. I regret the disappointment, as it possibly may have deprived me of information of some particulars not mentioned in your Letter.
Altho your Letter is silent upon the subject, I cannot doubt but you are on the march before this for Hartford, with all the Continental troops at least, agreable to the determination expressed in your Letter of the 15 ulto. and to mine of the 22d in answer. Indeed, I hoped the Instant the Enemy should embark, that you would push the Troops on, and did not expect that they would go to the Island at all. Possibly you might have thought their going there for a day or two, necessary for collecting and removing the stores. If however by any means you should have deferred your march, I am to request that you will begin it, according to the plan settled between us in the course of our correspondence, without a moment’s delay.
I gave you before, in consequence of what you said about garrisoning the Island with militia, my private opinion of the most I thought the State should do on the occasion. I am still of the same opinion, for the reasons I then suggested, and as I view the post in the light of trap. I have the honor to be, &c.1
P. S. If by any possibility the Troops should not have left the Island when this comes to hand—perhaps the route thro Norwich will be more convenient for ’em to pursue and from thence along the Sound than that through Hartford. This however must be with you to determine from circumstances. Whichever way you proceed you will be pleased to inform me by the earliest opportunity that I may meet you with farther directions.
TO HENRY LAURENS.
West-Point, 5 November, 1779.
I am much indebted to you for your obliging favors, of the 7th & 24th of last month, and offer my thanks for the several agreeable pieces of intelligence, contained in the latter,—No part of which, believe me, Sir, gave more sincere pleasure, than the acct. of your appointment to the States of Holland. No person, (if you will permit me to say so much,) is more impressed with the importance of those duties, which I conceive to be the objects of your mission, than you are; nor no one, whose punctuality & close attention to business affords a happier presage of success to any negotiation within the reach of our powers & reasonable expectations.
Your observations upon the resolve of Congress “to stop the press” are striking & awaken those ideas, which I entertained on this subject at the time of passing it. I reconciled myself, however, to the measure at that time, from the persuasion that such previous assurances had been obtained, founded in clear & demonstrable evidence, of the certainty of getting the necessary supplies by taxation & loans, as would leave nothing to chance. To find the promoters of the measure impressed with doubts is not a little alarming, when we consider the consequences of a failure. A virtuous exertion in the States respectively, and in the individuals of each State, may effect a great deal. But, alas! virtue & patriotism are almost kicked out! Stockjobbing, speculating, engrossing, &c., &c., seems to be the great business of the day & of the multitude, whilst a virtuous few struggle, lament, & suffer in silence, tho I hope not in vain.
Your state of matters, respecting the cloathing department, is not less distressing. What a pity it is, that the work of to-day should be postponed a week! a month! a year! when not a possible good, but much evil, is the inevitable consequence of it! Our solicitude on acct. of the operations at Savanna may easily be conceived, when I add, that we have not heard a tittle from thence since the receipt of your obliging letter of the 24th; and our anxiety for European news is little inferior. The present æra is big of events. We turn an impatient eye to the Seaboard, looking for the arrival of the French fleet; & begin to apprehend much from the Season, &c. It would be a most desirable thing to be ascertained of the extent of Count d’Estaing’s intentions in this quarter, that not more than correspondant preparations may be made. At present our situation is awkward & expensive.1
Nothing new has happened in these parts, since the evacuation of Rhode Island. Reports indeed, inform us, that the Troops of that garrison did not disembark at New York; but, receiving an augmentation of Hessians, proceeded to the Hook, and from thence to Sea. Of the truth of this, & of the transports wooding and watering, I shall soon have authentic accts.
I persuade myself, that it is unnecessary for me to have recourse to assurances in proof of the sincere pleasure, with wch. I should receive my worthy aid, Colonel Laurens. It is an event, however, I have little expected, since I have heard of his late appointment; nor shall I suffer a selfish wish to come into the scale of determination. His abilities, in whatever station they are employed, will render essential services to his country. My attachment, therefore, to him, or any desire of benefiting by his aid, shall not weigh in the balance. For his past services & attention to me, he will ever have my warmest thanks; for his honor, happiness, & advancement in life, my unfeigned wishes. These, in every step you take, in every station in life to which you may be called, will also attend you, as I can with truth assure you, that, with the greatest esteem and regard, I am, dear Sir, &c.
TO BRIGADIER-GENERAL DUPORTAIL AND LIEUTENANT-COLONEL HAMILTON.
Head-Qrs., West Point, 11 November, 1779.
Being absent from Head-Qrs. on a visit to several out-posts of the army, when your favor of the 2d instant arrived, and not returning till last night, it was not in my power to answer it before. I am precisely in the predicament you are, with respect to the Count, his intentions, or ultimate operations. I have not heard a single syllable about either since your departure, except what was transmitted in my Letter of the 30th ulto., a similar account to which you will have seen in the public prints. From this circumstance, and the lateness of the season, I do not expect that he will arrive in this quarter, or, if he should, that the Enterprise which he proposed could now be prosecuted. It is too late to begin it. However, as I received my advices from Congress, of the Count’s intention to coöperate, and considered myself as bound by their direction to prepare for it, I have not thought myself at liberty to desist from my preparations, or to fix upon a day when they should cease. I have written to them to-day upon the subject, stating the incertainty I am under with respect to His Excellency’s coming, the great expense which must necessarily attend the continuing of our measures for a coöperation, and the difficulties, supposing it undertaken, from the advanced season; and requested their earliest decision, as to the part I am to pursue. I have also requested the favor of General Schuyler, who is at Congress, to transmit to you the Result of their deliberations upon the occasion, as soon as they are ended; by which you will be pleased to govern yourselves, either as to your returning or remaining, as their decision may point. In the mean time You will withhold all my despatches to the Count, even if he should arrive, till you receive their answer, and endeavor to recover such as may have been lodged by you or others along the Coast towards the Capes of Delaware. I have written to Major Lee, with respect to the Letters in his hands.
When you have received the determination of Congress, if it is against a Coöperation, it will be necessary for you to recall the pilots, except such a number as may be thought material for general purposes in case of the Count’s arrival, for the security of his Fleet, and such as were employed here, or immediately in consequence of any of my Letters, you will desire to send in their accounts. I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
West Point, 14 November, 1779.
In my letter of the 4th, ulto., which I had the honor of addressing Congress, I informed them of the measures I had adopted for a co-operation with his Excellency the Count d’Estaing, in consequence of their act and favor of the 26th & 27th of the preceding month. Besides the measures which I then mentioned, several others which appeared to me essential for the occasion, and which would be naturally expected of me, have been pursued, and every disposition made, which our circumstances would admit and which the importance of the object in view, necessarily required. When I was first honored with the despatches of Congress on the subject of a co-operation with the Count, I hoped as Congress themselves must have done, that the operations at the southward would have been soon over, so as to have permitted his Excellency to have proceeded with his fleet and land forces in a short time after his arrival there to this coast, and, on this ground, that something important and interesting, if not decisive, might be attempted against the enemy in this quarter, with a good prospect of success; but the operations there having continued so long and hitherto prevented him from coming, I now beg leave to offer it to Congress, as my opinion, that the Count’s arrival, even if it were to take place immediately, would be too late on account of the advanced season for any extensive operation, or at least any that might require time and materially depend on our joint aid. In this view of matters, without taking notice of the incertainty in which we still are, with respect to southern affairs, and of consequence as to the precise time, when his Excellency might arrive, I would submit to Congress to decide, whether we shall continue measures for a co-operation, or relinquish all ideas of it for the present time without farther delay. I do not conceive myself authorised to determine the point, but I will take the liberty to observe, that the latter from every consideration of the subject, will, as it strikes me, be most for our interest, and for the interest and honor of the common cause. We are now on the eve of winter, and enterprises which might have bid fair for a successful and happy issue, if they could have been begun some time ago, and matters put all in train, would at best if commenced now, stand upon very precarious and uncertain footing; and the more so, as the execution would depend on troops but illy appointed and clad, and a great proportion of these, militia, unaccustomed to the hardships of the field, and who therefore, would be less able and less disposed to persevere against the rigors and difficulties which would unavoidably occur from the inclemency of the season. The enemy too have had great time for preparation, and their stores of fuel and forage, &c., and their defences are infinitely more compleat than they would have been found, if we could have begun our operations at a more early period. The state of our flour supplies, also, is much more opposed to a co-operation than was expected: they are now distressing and from recent reports by the Commissary General, it is much to be feared, that they may become so in the extreme. Our distress, on this head, at this instant, arises, in a great measure, from a long drought; but, this aside, the Commissary says he finds every day new and greater difficulties attending the business of supplies, from a more unhappy cause. * * *1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Head Quarters,West Point,
As the present campaign is advancing towards a conclusion, and the Counsels of the British Cabinet, so far as they have come to my knowledge, are far from recognising our Independence and pointing to an honorable peace, I have thought it might not be amiss for me to lay before Congress a state of the army (notwithstanding it is frequently transmitted to the Treasury Board, I believe by a return of the muster-Rolls, and to the War Office monthly in a more general view), as it is with Congress to decide on the expediency of making it more respectable, or of fixing its amount to any particular point. The return I have the honor to enclose, is an abstract taken from the muster-Rolls of the Troops of each State in Octor. (South Carolina & Georgia excepted), and contains a compleat view, not only of the whole strength of the forces of each, and of the Independent Corps, &c., at that time, but of the different periods for which they stood engaged. I conceived a return of this sort might be material, and accordingly directed it to be made, the better to enable Congress to govern their views and requisitions to the several States. They will perceive by this, that our whole force, including all sorts of Troops, noncommissioned officers and privates, Drummers and Fifers, supposing every man to have existed and to have been in service at that time, a point however totally inadmissible, amounted to 27,099. That of this number, comprehending 410 Invalids, 14,998 are stated as engaged for the War; that the remainder, by the expiration of Enlistments, will be decreased by the 31st of December 2,051; by the last of March 6,426; by the last of April (including the levies) 8,181; by the last of June 10,158; by the last of Septr. 10,709; and by different periods, I believe shortly after, 12,157.1
As I have observed, it cannot be supposed, that the whole of the Troops borne upon the muster-Rolls were either in service, or really in existence; for it will ever be found, for obvious reasons, that the amount of an army on Paper will greatly exceed its real strength. Hence there are other deductions than those enumerated above, and which must equally operate against the troops of every class; and I must farther beg leave to observe, that, besides these several deductions, there are of necessity very considerable and constant drafts of men from the regiments for artificers, armorers, matrosses, Wagoners, and the Quarter-Master’s Department, &c; so that we cannot estimate our operating force in the Field, with any propriety or justice, by any means as high as it may appear at first view on Paper. This point might be more fully illustrated by referring to the column of present fit for duty, in all general returns, and comparing it with the total amount. Nor is there any reason to expect, that these large and heavy drafts from the regiments will cease; but on the contrary it is much to be feared, from the increased and increasing difficulties in getting men, that they will be still greater.
Having shown what would be the ultimate and greatest possible amount of our force at the several periods above mentioned, according to the abstract of the muster-Rolls for October, supposing every man borne upon them to have been there and that they would remain in service, agreeable to the terms noted in the abstract, which however is by no means supposable, as already observed, I shall take the liberty, with all possible deference, to offer my sentiments on the only mode that appears to me competent, in the present situation of things, to placing and keeping our Battalions on a respectable footing, if Congress judge the measure essential; and I trust, in doing this, it will not be deemed that I have exceeded my duty. If it should, my apology must be that it proceeded from a desire to place the business of raising the Levies, we may have occasion to employ in future, on a more regular and certain system than has been adopted, or at least put in practice; and one by which the public will derive benefits from their service.
In the more early stages of the contest, when men might have been enlisted for the war, no man, as my whole conduct and the uniform tenor of my letters will evince, was ever more opposed to short enlistments than I was; and, while there remained a prospect of obtaining Recruits upon a permanent footing in the first instance, as far as duty and a regard to my station would permit, I urged my sentiments in favor of it. But the prospect of keeping up an army by voluntary enlistments being changed, or at least standing on too precarious and uncertain a footing to depend on for the exigency of our affairs, I took the liberty, in February, 1778, in a particular manner to lay before the Committee of Arrangement, then with the army at Valley Forge, a plan for an annual draft, as the surest and most certain, if not the only means left us, of maintaining the army on a proper and respectable ground. And, more and more confirmed in the propriety of this opinion by the intervention of a variety of circumstances unnecessary to detail, I again took the freedom of urging the plan to the Committee of conference in January last; and having reviewed it in every point of light and found it right, or at least the best that has occurred to me, I hope I shall be excused by Congress in offering it to them, and in time for carrying it into execution for the next year, if they should conceive it necessary for the States to compleat their quotas of troops.
The plan I would propose is, that each State be informed by Congress annually of the real deficiency of its Troops, and called upon to make it up, or such less specific number as Congress may think proper, by a draft; That the men drafted join the army by the 1st of January, and serve till the 1st of January in the succeeding year; That from the time the drafts join the army, the officers of the States from which they come, be authorized and directed to use their endeavors to enlist them for the war, under the bounties to the officers themselves and the recruits granted by the act of the 23d of January last, viz., Ten Dollars to the officers for each recruit, and two hundred to the recruits themselves; That all State, County, & Town bounties to drafts, if practicable, be entirely abolished, on account of the uneasiness and disorders they create among the soldiery, the desertions they produce, and for other reasons, which will readily occur; That, on or before the 1st of October annually, an abstract or return similar to the present one, be transmitted to Congress, to enable them to make their requisitions to each State with certainty and precision. This I would propose as a general plan to be pursued; and I am persuaded that this, or one nearly similar to it, will be found the best now in our power, as it will be attended with the least expense to the Public, will place the service on the footing of order and certainty, and will be the only one that can advance the general interest to any great extent. If the plan is established, besides placing the service on the footing of more order and certainty, than it will ever otherwise have, we shall, I should hope, by the exertions of the officers be able to increase the number of our Troops on permanent engagements for the war; especially if we should be so fortunate as to be in a condition to hold out to the drafts, that would engage, a certainty of their receiving the bounty Cloathing stipulated by the Public to be furnished to the Troops, and which is so essential to the interest of both. Cloathing is now become a superior temptation—and if we were in circumstances to hold it out, and the drafts were sure that they would obtain it, as they enlisted and that it would be regularly furnished as it became due—there are good grounds to believe from what has been experienced, and the reports of the Officers that many would readily engage for the War. From these considerations and as it is so highly essential to the advancement of the Public interest, both as we regard the issue of the contest—and œconomy in men and money,—I would hope, that every practicable measure will be pursued to get ample and compleat supplies of Cloathing. And I will take the liberty to add, that the diminution of the Army, by the expiration of the inlistments of a part of the Troops, according to the foregoing state, should not in my opinion, lessen the calculations and estimates of supplies, in any degree; but that they should be made under the idea of the whole of the Battalions being complete. When this is done, events may, and some probably will occur, by which the supplies, as they do not depend upon internal manufactures may be diminished—and scarcely any can arise which can make them burthensome on our hands. A want will and must from the nature of things, be attended with very injurious consequences at least—A full quantity with none at all, but with almost innumerable interesting benefits. Besides the prospect we should have of gaining Recruits for the War by having good supplies of Cloathing, which as already observed, is become a first inducement to service—We shall as has ever been the case be obliged to make some issues to the drafts—as well from principles of humanity—as to get their service. I have been thus long on the subject of ample supplies of Cloathing, as it is scarcely to be conceived the distresses and disadvantages—that flow from a deficiency. For instance nothing can be more injurious or discouraging, than our having only four thousand nine hundred Blankets to distribute to the whole Army—and so of many other articles in but little better proportion.
The advantages of a well-digested, general, and uniform system for levying and bringing them to the army at a particular time to serve to a fixed period are obvious. We may then form our plans of operation with some degree of certainty, and determine with more propriety and exactness on what we may or may not be able to do; and the periods for joining and serving, which I have taken the liberty to mention, appear to me the most proper for a variety of considerations. It being in January when it is proposed that the recruits shall join, and when the Enemy cannot operate, they will get seasoned and accustomed in some measure to a camp life, before the Campaign opens, and will have four or five months to acquire discipline and some knowledge of manœuvres without interruption; and their service being extended to the same time in the succeeding Year, the Public will have all the benefits that can be derived from their aid for a whole campaign. According to the plan on which the business has been conducted, the Public incurs a very heavy expense, on account of recruits (all that the one proposed is liable to), and scarcely receives any benefit from them. The Levies, that have been raised, have come to the army so irregularly, that the aid they were intended to give has never been received, or at least but to a very limited and partial extent; and the time, for which they were engaged, has been spent in gaining a seasoning to camp and discipline, when they ought to have been in the field; or they must have been sent there raw and untutored, (a circumstance, which may lead in some critical moment before an Enemy to most fatal consequences,) and the greater part of it has been spent in Winter Quarter. The abstract with its remarks will show Congress when the recruits for this campaign joined, and of what little importance their aid could have been, if the Enemy had not been prevented by the occurrence of a variety of distant events, as providential as they were fortunate for us, from pursuing the vigorous measures there was but too much reason to believe they would have otherwise been capable of, and on which it seemed they had determined. I am, Sir, &c.
P. S. From several parts of my letter Congress will conclude, that it must have been intended to have reached them before this. The fact was so the greater part of it having been drafted early in Septr.—but unfortunately from the dispersed situation of the Troops—I could not obtain the Abstract of the Muster Rolls, to shew their state, with any degree of precision, till within these four days.—
TO MAJOR-GENERAL ROBERT HOWE.
West Point, 20 November, 1779.
Herewith you will receive Mr. Pulteney’s lucubrations, and my thanks for the perusal of them.1 He has made, I perceive, the dependence of America essential to the existence of Great Britain, as a powerful nation. This I shall not deny, because I am in sentiment with him in thinking her fallen state in consequence of the separation, too obvious to be disputed. It was of magnitude sufficient to have made a wise and just people look before they leaped. But I am glad to find that he has placed the supplies necessary to support that dependence upon three things which I am persuaded will never again exist in his nation—namely, public virtue, public economy, and public union in her grand council.
Stock jobbing, speculation, dissipation, luxury and venality, with all their concomitants, are too deeply rooted to yield to virtue and the public good. We that are not yet hackneyed in vice—but infants, as it were, in the arts of corruption, and the knowledge of taking advantage of public necessity (tho’ I am much mistaken if we shall not soon become very great adepts at them) find it almost, if not quite impossible to preserve virtue enough to keep the body politic and corporate in tolerable tune. It is scarcely to be expected therefore that a people who have reduced these things to a system and have actually interwoven them into their constitution should at once become immaculate.
I do not know which rises highest—my indignation or contempt, for the sentiments which pervade the ministerial writings of this day—these hireling scribblers labor to describe and prove the ingratitude of America in not breaking faith with France—& returning to her allegiance to the Crown of Great Britain after its having offered such advantageous terms of accommodation. Such sentiments as these are insulting to common sense and affrontive to every principle of sound policy and common honesty. Why has she offered these terms?—because after a bloody contest, carried on with unrelenting and savage fury on her part the issue (which was somewhat doubtful while we stood alone) is now become certain by the aid we derive from our Alliance. Notwithstanding the manifest advantages of which, and the blood and treasure which has been spent to resist a tyranny which was unremitted as long as there remained a hope of subjugation, we are told with an effrontery altogether unparelleled that every cause of complaint is now done away by the generous offers of a tender parent—that it is ungrateful in us not to accept the proffered terms, and impolitic not to abandon a power (dangerous I confess to her but) which held out a saving hand to us in the hour of our distress. What epithet does such sentiments merit? How much should a people possessed of them be despised? From my soul I abhor them! A manly struggle, had it been conducted upon liberal ground, and honest confession that they were unequal to conquest, and wished for our friendship, would have had its proper weight—but their cruelties, exercised upon those who have fallen within their power—the wanton depredations committed by themselves and their faithful allies, the Indians—their low and dirty practices of counterfeiting our money—forging letters—and condescending to adopt such arts as the meanest villain in private life would blush at being charged with, has made me their fixed enemy.
I have received your letter by Colo. Moylan of yesterday’s date. The instructions given to — are full and compleat—I have no thought of withdrawing the effective horse till the other troops go into quarters. I am &c.
TO GOVERNOR JEFFERSON.
I have been honored with your Excellency’s favors of the 1st, 2nd and 8th of October and the several enclosures.
The measure of the Council in remanding Governor Hamilton and his companions back to confinement, on their refusal to sign the parole tendered them, is perfectly agreeable to the practice of the enemy. The particular part objected to, I have always understood, enters into the paroles given by our officers.1 In regard to your letter of the 8th, I would hope with your Excellency, that there will be no necessity for cruelty with the enemy. Indeed, it is but justice to observe, that of late, or rather since Sir Henry Clinton has had the command, the treatment of our prisoners has been more within the line of humanity, and in general very different from that which they experienced under his predecessors. I shall not fail, however, as a matter of duty, to pay proper attention to such deviations from this conduct, as may appear the result of mere wantonness or cruelty, and that have not been incurred by the irregularities of our prisoners.
I have the honor to be, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
West Point, 24 November, 1779.
* * * * * *
I am now using my best endeavors to get things in train for putting the army in quarters. The distribution of cloathing, owing to its late arrival, the scantiness of the stock, the diversity in color and in quality, its not having been properly assorted when packed, and the absence of cloathiers under various pretences for getting articles that would be deficient, has proved a source of the most irksome delay and difficulty. Owing to those causes, and Two Rainy days, the North Carolina Troops could not move from Windsor till yesterday, notwithstanding the most active exertions of Colo. Clarke, who commands them, and all parties engaged, to effect it. I hope, however, that what clothing was here, and to be distributed here, will be so delivered by to-morrow evening, that all Troops, except those intended for the garrison, will be able to move towards the places destined for their cantonment without more delay.
In fixing on these, we are obliged to regard in a particular manner the security of this post, the security of the army, the best protection circumstances will admit of to the Country, our supplies of provisions and Forage, and the means of transportation. From the fullest consideration of the point it appears, that these objects in a combined view will be best answered by quartering the Cavalry in Connecticut; a Brigade at Danbury; a sufficient Garrison here, including the post at King’s Ferry and the Continental village, to secure them at least against any sudden attempts on the part of the Enemy; a small body of Troops at the entrance of the Clove; the main body of the army in the Country in the neighborhood of the Scot’s plains, if the circumstances of wood and water will admit. The Qr.-Master-General and other officers are now advanced & employed, & have been for some days, in reconnoitring for a proper position. The instant matters will permit, I shall go forward myself.1
I have been informed by Report that Colo. Wadsworth, the Commissary-General, means to resign his Office—and has limitted a day for it not very remote. I would take the liberty to suggest, if he is not really to continue in office—and the period when he will leave it, is not distant—that too early an attention cannot be paid, in providing for the contingency. The business of other departments may admit of some procrastinations and delays, and they may make shifts for a little time that may keep matters agoing; but the business of this, being to satisfy the demands of a nature in the Article of food, nothing can answer these but actual supplies. These cannot be interrupted—and whenever they are checked, even to a small degree, the consequences are disagreeable. If Colo. Wadsworth does decline the Office I only wish his successor may feed the Army as well as he has done. I think it my duty to say in justice to him—that since he acted in the Office, the Army has not known the least want till the present and now in the Article of bread only. For this it has been streighted’d for Eight or Ten days past, owing, I am convinced not to a want of exertion on his part but to a long and uncommon drought and the great quantity of flour required for another purpose. This distress, however, by the late rain—I hope will be at least relieved for the present. A continuation of supplies will depend upon other sources. * * *
I have, &c.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Peek’s Kill, 29 November, 1779.
Since I had the honor of addressing Your Excellency on the 20th I have received sundry reports, tho’ not through the Channels I could have wished, and yet thro’ such as seem to make the Reports worthy of credit, that the Enemy are making or preparing for a pretty considerable embarkation of troops from New York. From this circumstance, altho’ their destination is not known, and from the importance of securing the States of Georgia and South Carolina, which possibly may be their object, and which, from the accounts I have received from Col. Laurens, are in a more defenceless condition than I had even apprehended, I have determined, illy as they can be spared, to put the whole of the Virginia troops in motion, except those whose terms of service will expire by the last of January, to give them farther succor, if Congress shall judge it expedient, after considering the full state and extent of our force, as communicated in my Letter of the 18th. I am full of opinion, that this detachment can be illy afforded; but possibly, from the disagreeable consequences that might result from the Enemy’s gaining possession of these two States, or even of attempting it, it may be advisable to hazard a good deal for their security. At any rate, from the unhappy reduction of our force by the expiration of enlistments, we should be obliged to pursue great caution for our security; and, if this detachment is made, it will be necessary to increase it, and to act if possible on a more defensive plan.
From the great distance from hence to Charles Town, from Virginia’s lying in the way, and from the inclement season, I am persuaded, if the troops proceed by land, that their number, by fatigue, sickness, desertion, and the expiration of their enlistments, will be so reduced, that their aid would be scarcely of any consideration when they arrived. In this view, and as their going will deprive the army here of a material part of its force, I cannot think, if Congress should determine the measure expedient, that they should proceed by Land. I am satisfied a Land march would exhaust the whole of the detachment, and that but little if any aid would be derived from it to the Southern Army, if it were to proceed in this way. From these considerations Congress will be pleased to determine, how far it may be advisable and practicable to send the Troops by Sea. A boisterous season, Winds generally blowing off the continent, and the risk of capture, are all circumstances, I will take the liberty to observe, that appear to me of importance in deciding the point. Without a good convoy I should apprehend the measure would at any rate be unadvisable, as the capture or loss of the Troops would give a severe shock to our affairs, and such as we should not recover without difficulty.
How far this may be practicable will be with Congress to determine. If it can be obtained, and Congress think this detachment should be sent, yet I would take the liberty to suggest farther, that the Troops had better sail from the Chesapeake Bay, than from the Delaware, as they will be more distant from New York, and of consequence not so liable to fall in with any of the enemy’s ships and cruisers.
And as it frequently happens at this season, that Vessels are blown off the coast and kept at sea for a considerable time, I should suppose it would be necessary for the Transport Vessels to be provisioned, wooded, & watered at least for six weeks. A passage may be effected perhaps in a few days, but provision should be made against contingencies; and in doing this it may be material to consider the state of our supplies, and whether they will admit of so large a quantity being shipped. It also appears to me, if the embarkation is made, that it should be in Transports employed solely for the purpose; as events possibly might arise, if they were on board other Vessels, which might render it at least inconvenient for them to proceed. I am now thus far on my way to Jersey, and shall put the Virginia Troops in motion, as soon as it can be done, for Philadelphia. Congress will please to have, against their arrival, such instructions ready as they may deem necessary with respect to their farther movements. I have the honor to be, &c.
P. S. As it appears to me for the reasons above that we cannot attempt to succor Georgia and South Carolina, by a land march of Troops and it will at least take several days before the arrangement of Transports—Convoy—Provisions &c. can be made—I have concluded not to move the Troops till I hear from Congress on these subjects and in the mean time shall hold the Troops in readiness and employ them in building Huts.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
I have the honor to inform Congress, that I have received a letter from a confidential correspondent in New York, dated the 27th of November, containing the following paragraph.
“The Men-of-War at the Hook have taken in water for several months, and on friday the Admiral went down with all his Baggage. A fleet for Cork and a number of Vessels for England will sail in a few days, some of which are loaded with valuable Cargoes. However, some think that they will not sail till D’Estaing has left the Coast, or till there is some arrival from England. Privateering is now almost over, not more than six now out and few fitting. There have not any prizes of Value arrived for some time past.”
The circumstance of the two fleets destined for England and Ireland, is also mentioned by Major Lee. He sends me a list of the enemy’s naval force as follows: At the Hook The Russel and Robuste 74’s The Europa, Defiance, and Raisonable 64’s. The Roebuck of 44 and two smaller Frigates. The Renown of 50 and Romulus of 44 at New York. I understand he forwarded a similar list to Congress. As I have not before heard of the Defiance I am in doubt whether there may not be a mistake with respect to her.
But the most important part of the first mentioned letter relates to the indefatigable endeavors of the enemy to increase the depreciation of our currency by increasing its quantity in Counterfeits. It asserts, as a matter of certainty, that Reams of the paper made for the last emissions struck by Congress have been procured from Philadelphia. The writer had taken much but fruitless pains to detect the [persons] concerned. He observes that the enemy have great hopes of terminating the War in their favor in another Campaign, as they expect, confidently, the entire ruin of our money and a failure of provisions for the Supply of the Army. The prevailing opinion, he says, among the most knowing in New York is, that a considerable part of the Army will be sent to Georgia, as soon as it is known that the French Fleet has left the coast; and it is thought by some, that several Regiments will go to the West Indies. He speaks of the arrival of a packet, which left Falmouth the 7th of September, posterior to the period to which the different accounts refer the engagement between the fleets, and which brings no intelligence of such an event. Your Excellency’s letter of the 2d Inst. is come to hand. I have the honor to be, &c.
P. S. The very critical situation of the Army made still more critical by the proposed detachment to the Southward induces me to take the liberty of again intreating the attention of Congress to the Subject of my letter of the 18th last month. Several of the Assemblies are now sitting and if the requisitions of Congress do not reach them before they rise, the delay on assembling them will protract our succors to a period which may leave us absolutely at the discretion of the Enemy. The Army daily dissolving will be so weak in the early part of Spring, that without proportionable reinforcements, if the enemy keep their present collected force they will have it in their power to take such advantage of our situation as may be fatal to our affairs. There is indeed a probability of their making detachments, but there is far from being a certainty. Though it should be their present intention (against which however many cogent reasons may be assigned) to operate to the Southward, they would be very likely to abandon it on finding we had transported to that quarter a force sufficient to defeat their attempts. In this case they may send a few Regiments to their Islands and still retain a force very formidable to our Weakness. Should we experience any disasters, we must dread the consequences at this delicate period of our currency; and that we should experience the most serious disasters we can have little doubt when we reflect that we should be too weak and too much divided to resist the enemy in the posts we are obliged to occupy, and too much fettered by the difficulty of transportation and supplies to avoid them and reunite our force—If not a moment should be lost, the Recruits will hardly join the Army before the Month of April—It is therefore evidently of the greatest importance that no delay should be incurred—For my own part, I confess my anxiety on the subject is extreme.1
TO GOVERNOR JEFFERSON.
I have the honor to inform your Excellency that I have received advice from New York that a very large embarkation had taken place (said to amount to 8000), and that the fleet containing them was at the Hook on the point of sailing—their destination reported to be for Chesapeak Bay, on a combined operation in the 1st place against the French squadron there, and afterwards, to attempt the rescue of the Convention troops. Their naval force may consist of five sail of the line and two frigates of 44’s, besides a 50 gun ship. The separation of the French squadron mentioned by our last accounts from the southward, may have been a temptation to the enemy to undertake an enterprise against that part which had arrived. But it is not perhaps very probable that the Convention troops enter into the plan; nevertheless I think it prudent to communicate the intelligence to your Excellency, that you may have the goodness to direct your attention towards their security, and take any precautions which may appear to you necessary without conveying an alarm. For this purpose I request the favor of you to give immediate information to the officer commanding at Charlottesville.
By the report of a deserter, and the firing of signal guns, a great part of yesterday, I am led to conclude the fleet sailed at that time.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL LINCOLN, IN SOUTH CAROLINA.
Head Quarters,Morris Town,
My Dear Sir,
I had the pleasure of receiving yours of the 22d October, by Colo. Laurens, to whose information I am indebted for a very particular account of the situation of affairs to the southward. I had previous to his arrival been furnished by Congress with copies of your despatches by Major Clarkson, who came forward himself to Head-Quarters. I had the mortification of hearing of the ill success of the allied arms before Savannah. While I regret the misfortune, I feel a very sensible pleasure in contemplating the gallant behavior of the officers and men of the french and american army; and it adds not a little to my consolation to learn, that instead of the mutual reproaches, which too often follow the failure of enterprises depending upon the coöperation of troops of different nations, their confidence in and esteem for each other is increased. I am happy in believing, that the delicacy and propriety of your conduct upon every occasion has contributed much to this agreeable circumstance.
Before Colo. Laurens’s arrival, the two Regiments of North Carolina had marched; and immediately upon finding, from your letters and from him, the reduced state of your Continental force, and the little dependence to be put upon the precarious supplies of militia, I submitted to Congress the propriety of detaching the whole of the Virginia line; expressing at the same time my willingness to part with them, illy as they could be spared, should they judge it expedient, after a full consideration of all circumstances. Congress having determined upon the propriety of the measure, the troops began to march the day before yesterday; and I hope the whole will be in motion this day, should not the weather prevent them. I have strongly recommended the transportation of them by water, if Vessels can be procured, and a Convoy ensured. The advantages of this over a march by land are too obvions to need mentioning. The unhappy system of short enlistments operates just now most forcibly upon the troops in question, as well as upon the whole line of the army, altho. the total amount of the Virginians is at present upward of 2,500. I do not imagine it will be practicable to move more than NA Rank and file to South Carolina as the times of the remainder would expire by their arrival at Charlestown—About 150 of the two State Regiments had been reenlisted last Winter upon promise of a furlough this Winter. I shall take the liberty, in my turn, of referring you to Colo. Laurens for a minute account of our circumstances and situation; and I am happy in having the testimony of so able a judge and so good a man, to witness that the utmost has been done by me to afford relief to the quarter, which so loudly and with so much reason calls for assistance. I am, with sincere esteem, &c.
TO GOVERNOR CLINTON.
Morris Town, 13 December, 1779.
I have the honor to enclose Your Excellency sundry papers received from Major Ballard, respecting the effects of certain disaffected persons, taken and sold on the frontier. You will perceive he is in danger of being prosecuted for felony. There appears not, from the face of the papers, to have been any thing blamable in Major Ballard’s conduct, as he only acted in obedience to his orders, on which must be charged whatever irregularity there may have been in the affair. As the good of the service sometimes requires things to be done in the military line, which cannot be supported by the civil law, prosecutions of this kind may discourage officers from the discharge of their duty. It were therefore to be wished they could be prevented, except where there are appearances of oppression or fraud. Nothing of this offers itself in Major Ballard’s representation; though it is difficult to judge without hearing the other parties. I take the liberty, however, of troubling your Excellency with the affair, that, unless you have reason to believe there has been a spirit of plunder in the transaction, you may have the goodness to interpose your influence for preventing the intended prosecutions. To make this the more practicable, I have directed the money, which arose on the sales, said to be deposited with Lt.-Colo. Whiting, to be paid to Your Excellency’s order. But if, on inquiry, any of the officers seem to have been actuated by improper views, I wish them to suffer the penalty of the law, and shall be ready to promote every measure for doing justice to those who have been injured. With every sentiment of respect and regard, I have the honor to be, &c.
TO BRIGADIER-GENERAL WOODFORD.
Morristown, 13 December, 1779.
My Dear Sir,
I have the pleasure to find that the artillery is at length ready, and that the rear of the Virginia troops will march early to-morrow morning. By advices this day received from Congress, it seems to be their intention, that the whole shall move by water from the Head of Elk to Williamsburg, and thence by land to South Carolina. I wish it were practicable to send them by water; but, by this arrangement, I take it for granted it is not. I am apprehensive, as the troops pass through their own State, the march will be attended with very considerable desertion; but I rely upon your vigilance and care, that you will take every precaution for preventing it, as far as will be possible. The most rigid discipline will be indispensable for this purpose. A chain of sentries round every encampment will be the best security.
I sincerely wish you and the troops under your command a comfortable march and a speedy arrival. The interests of America may very essentially require the latter, towards which I am persuaded you will do all in your power. Nothing will make me happier, than to hear at all times, that the Virginia line distinguishes itself, in every qualification that does honor to the military profession. Its composition is excellent; and a strict attention to discipline will always entitle it to vie with any corps in this, or in any other service. They are going into a new, and probably important field, to act with troops to whom they have been hitherto strangers. This ought to prove an additional incitement to a spirit of emulation. My affection for the troops, and my concern for the credit of the army under my command, as well as for their own credit, make me anxiously desire the officers may exert themselves to cultivate that perfection in discipline, on which the usefulness and reputation of a corps absolutely depends. Similar motives, joined to a regard for the honor of the State to which they belong, will, I am confident, be felt with all the force they deserve; and will inspire them to a zealous and punctual discharge of their duty in all its parts. For here permit me to add, that, though bravery & good conduct, in time of action, are very essential, yet they are by no means the most material parts of an officer’s duty. To train & prepare men for the field, (without which no exertion in the moment of action will avail much), To supply their necessary wants, as far as circumstances will enable;—To restrain licentiousness;—To support the honr. and dignity of the corps;—To be attentive to the cloathing, seeing that it is always in place, in order, and well put on, (without which, a soldier in rags & a soldier in uniform differ little in appearance);—To have the arms & accoutrements always in order;—In a word, to abide strictly by military rules, regulations, & orders; These constitute the essence of a soldier, and are characteristic of good officers.—Without these no service can be well conducted, & every service must be disagreeable, sluggish, & expensive; partaking more of the disorders of militia, than the regularity of well organized troops, which ought & may to move like clockwork, where the component parts discharge their respective duties with propriety and exactness. I entreat you to communicate what I have said to the gentlemen of the line; and, at the same time, to assure them of my warmest esteem and best wishes for their welfare and success. With the truest regard, I am, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
The representations I had the honor to transmit in my letters of the 10th and 12th and those now inclosed will inform Congress of the deplorable distress of the great departments of the Army. I beg leave to add that from a particular consultation of the Commissaries, I find our prospects are infinitely worse than they have been at any period of the War, and that unless some expedient can be instantly adopted a dissolution of the Army for want of Subsistence is unavoidable—A part of it has been again several days without Bread—and for the rest we have not either on the spot or within reach a supply sufficient for four days—Nor does this deficiency proceed from accidental obstructions as has been the case on former occasions but from the absolute emptiness of our magazines everywhere and the total want of money or credit to replenish them. I look forward to the consequences with an anxiety not to be described.
The only temporary resource we seem to have left, till more effectual measures can be adopted, is this—To solicit a loan of four or five thousand barrels out of the quantity provided for the use of the French fleet and Army. I am informed upwards of twenty thousand were collected in Maryland, all of which it is probable has not yet been exported. If this can be obtained to be replaced as spedily as possible, perhaps it may prove a timely relief; the mean while we shall do everything in our power to husband the little stock we have and draw all the aid the surrounding Country can afford—I know the measure recommended is a disagreeable one, but motives of delicacy must often yield to those of necessity; and in the present case it appears to me to admit not of hesitation. I have, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL SULLIVAN.
Morris-town, 15 December, 1779.
I had the pleasure of receiving a few days since, by Capt. Bruin, your letter of the 1st instant. I assure you, my Dear Sir, I am sensibly touched by so striking an instance of your friendship, at a time and in a manner, that demonstrates its sincerity, and confirms the opinion I have always entertained of your sentiments towards me. I wish you to believe, that your uneasiness, on the score you mention, had never the least foundation. A slender acquaintance with the world must convince every man, that actions, not words, are the true criterion of the attachment of his friends, and that the most liberal professions of good will are very far from being the surest marks of it. I should be happy that my own experience had afforded fewer examples of the little dependence to be placed upon them. I am particularly indebted to you for the interesting information you give me of the views of a certain party. Against intrigues of this kind, incident to every man in a public station, his best support will be a faithful discharge of his duty, and he must rely on the justice of his country for the event.1
I flatter myself it is unnecessary for me to repeat to you, how high a place you hold in my esteem. The confidence you have experienced, and the manner in which you have been employed on several important occasions, testify the value I set upon your military qualifications, and the regret I must feel, that circumstances have deprived the army of your services. The pleasure I shall always take in an interchange of good offices in whatever station you may hereafter be placed, will be the best confirmation of the personal regard with which I have been and am, very sincerely and truly, dear Sir, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Morris Town, 17 December, 1779.
The bearer of this, the Reverend Mr. De La Motte, represents to me, that he has been employed by order of Congress, as Missionary to the Indian tribes in the Eastern department, from which trust he is now returning. On conversing with him, he has expressed a willingness to go into Canada as a secret emissary. He appears to be not unintelligent; and, if there is good reason to depend on his fidelity, from the trial already made of him, he may be very useful in this way. His function, and his being a Frenchman, possessing the language and manners of the people, would give him signal advantages. He might gain intelligence of the enemy, sound the dispositions of the inhabitants, and instil into them those ideas which Congress would wish to prevail. But the same advantages would make him proportionably mischievous, if he should be in the interest of the enemy. He says a charge of this nature was falsely brought against him by Colonel Alan, the commanding officer at Machias. It should be a point well ascertained, before he is entrusted with a new employment. Should Congress find him worthy of confidence, and determine on sending him into Canada, I should be glad to be honored with a communication of the instructions they give him, and to be permitted to add such others relative to the military objects, as may be consistent with theirs. With the most perfect respect I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO BRIGADIER-GENERAL WOODFORD.
Morris-town, 18 December, 1779.
My nephew, George Augustine Washington, (son of Charles) seems to have a warm desire to enter the Service. Altho I think it rather late in the day (contest, I should say) to begin a military career, yet, in gratification of his wishes, I shd. be glad to indulge him, if there be any Ensigncies which want filling in the Virginia line. Should this be the case, and he is recommended to the State, I should be glad to receive their approbation as soon as may be, that a commission may be obtained from the Board of War; after which, I shall keep him for some time doing the duty of Ensign in my guard; at least till he can be rigged & made somewhat acquainted with his duty as an officer. I have not mentioned this matter to any but yourself; nor is it my wish that it should take place, if it interferes in the smallest degree with the rights or reasonable expectations of any others. If he is appointed at all, I could wish it were to one of the oldest & best Regiments. With great regard, I am, Sir, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL HEATH, AT WEST POINT.
Hd. Qrs.Morristown, 21 December, 1779.
Notwithstanding the long preparations at New York, and the strong appearances of a large detachment’s being made from thence, it seems certain, from very recent advices, that no Troops have sailed as yet, and that the Enemy hold themselves in collected force. What their designs really are, I have not been able to learn, altho I have taken all the pains in my power to effect it.1 The southern States and the West Indies present themselves, as the most probable objects of their attention, and this seems to be the general prevailing opinion; but, as their delay cannot be satisfactorily accounted for, we should guard in the best manner we can against every possible contingency. I would therefore suppose it possible, that the preparations of transports may be a feint, and that the Enemy may have it in contemplation to aim a sudden stroke, either against the Highland posts, or against this army. The latter event appears by far the more probable of the two.
My former Instructions, of the 27th of Novr. and the Conventional Signals, which have been established, and to which they referred, were only calculated to produce succor from the militia in case of a serious movement of the Enemy in the first instance; but it will be equally necessary, if they should direct their operations against this army. In this event it may be absolutely essential for you, and the troops under your command, to march and give me support; and in order to this, I wish the signals, by a previous and immediate arrangement between you and Governor Clinton, may be made to answer the purpose of calling out the militia to garrison the posts during the absence of the Continental troops. They should not be drawn out for less than Ten or Twelve days, and if practicable, on account of our supplies of flour, it will be advisable for each man to bring with him flour for that time; this to be paid for by the public. You will communicate with the Governor on these several points, and who, I am convinced, will do all in his power to promote them. On your hearing of the enemy’s being in motion towards this army, in such a way as you can depend upon it, you will make the signals for calling in the militia, and hold the troops of the garrison in readiness to march at the shortest warning. I am, dear Sir, &c.
TO GOVERNOR LIVINGSTON.
Morris Town, 21 December, 1779.
The situation of our army at this time, compared with that of the enemy, makes it necessary we should be very much upon our guard. They have more than double our force collected, and we are mouldering away dayly. They have been some time past making a show of embarkation; but whether it is sincere, or a mere feint to lull us into security, is not easy to tell; but, if they really design to make large detachments, they must be restrained by their uncertainty of the motions of the French squadron; and, if this or any other obstruction should continue, Sir Henry Clinton may think himself bound to improve the interval in an offensive operation against this army. He cannot justify remaining inactive with a force so superior, and so many temptations to action. His enemies already clamor, and charge him with want of enterprise. He is not ignorant of the smallness of our numbers, and the distress of our magazines. He knows we have been obliged, for want of forage, to send the horses of the army to a distance from it. He cannot be insensible of the evils he would bring upon us by dislodging us from our winter-quarters. The loss of our huts at this inclement season would be a most serious calamity. This loss would in all probability be accompanied by that of a great part of our baggage, and a number of our men by desertions. It is difficult to determine the extent of the evils, if at so critical a juncture we should experience a failure of provisions, which we should have every reason to apprehend. Your Excellency’s discernment makes it useless to enlarge.
But it is our duty to do all we can to avert the danger. Should the event I have mentioned take place, we shall want the aid of the whole strength of the State. The enclosed official letter is an application for the purpose, which I have thought proper to accompany with this confidential view of our circumstances for your private information. I entreat your Excellency to give my application your support, that the measure recommended may be immediately put in a proper train. To me it appears of indispensable importance. I have the honor to be, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL GREENE.
Head-Qrs., 22 December, 1779.
I have received your Letter of yesterday, and am extremely concerned to find that you meet with such difficulties in quartering the officers, whose rank and situation require they should be lodged in the houses in the vicinity of the army. I regret that the inhabitants should be unwilling to give shelter to men, who have made and are still making every sacrifice in the service of their country; and that the magistrates should refuse to give you effectual aid in a matter to which, in my opinion, by a liberal and necessary construction of the law, their authority is fully competent.
The dilemma is perplexing. On one hand, nothing I wish so much as to avoid the least deviation from the line prescribed by the law; on the other, it is impossible that the officers can remain without proper covering. If the obstacles cannot be removed, so as to satisfy the law, necessity decides that you must proceed in quartering the officers yourself in such houses, as the good of the service may require, having all possible regard to the circumstances of the Inhabitants, that none may be distressed or incommoded more than is unavoidable. To this I am persuaded your own disposition will induce you to pay the strictest attention. But before you have recourse to this step, you will make one more application to the magistrates, which you will be pleased to do in writing, and request their answer also in writing. You will expose to them the reasonableness and necessity of their concurrence, and inform them what we shall be compelled to do, if they decline giving their assistance with cordiality and efficacy. Should they again refuse, you will then have no alternative but to do as I have mentioned.
I am, Sir, &c.
[1 ]About this time, Sir George Collier obtained intelligence, that an armament had sailed from Boston to Penobscot, with the view of taking that post from Colonel McLean, who had arrived there with a body of troops from Halifax about the middle of June. He immediately resolved to proceed thither with his fleet and attack the Boston squadron. Sir Henry Clinton said, in writing to Lord George Germaine: “This will leave me totally on the defensive till the arrival of Admiral Arbuthnot. Washington seems inclined to try for the posts at Verplanck’s Point and Stony Point; but as he did not make any vigorous attempt on the latter, whilst his success on the former gave him every advantage, I cannot conceive that he will now undertake it. He is certainly assembling all the force that he can in the mountains, and, if he means to make an effort, it will be against those posts, on the sailing of the commodore. His departure will leave us with only one twenty-gun ship and two sloops; enough to cover us from any thing the enemy can bring down, but not sufficient to give assistance should rapid movements and disembarkation be required; neither indeed will it secure us from danger from without. But the commodore thinks any attempt of that nature highly improbable.”—MS. Letter, July 28th.
[1 ]Thomas Jefferson had been chosen Governor of Virginia on the 1st of June, as successor to Patrick Henry.
[1 ]Henry Hamilton had been for several years Lieutenant-Governor of Detroit and the British dependencies in that region. On the 24th of February he had resigned himself, and a party of troops under his command, prisoners of war by capitulation to Colonel Clark, of Virginia, who, by a spirited and well-conducted enterprise, had passed through the wilderness at the head of a detachment from that State, and invested Fort St. Vincent’s, in the Illinois country, where Governor Hamilton was then stationed. He and several other prisoners were sent to Virginia. It appeared by papers laid before the Council of the State, that Governor Hamilton had issued proclamations and approved of practices, which were marked with cruelty towards the people that fell into his hands, such as inciting the Indians to bring in scalps, putting prisoners in irons, and giving them up to be the victims of savage barbarity. The Council decided, that Governor Hamilton was a proper subject for retaliation, and that he should be put in irons and confined in a jail. The British general Phillips, who was then at Charlottesville with the convention troops, wrote a long and temperate letter on the subject to Governor Jefferson, arguing, upon military principles, that this treatment of Governor Hamilton could not be justified, even if the charges against him were true. Had he been captured, or had he surrendered at discretion, General Phillips acknowledged, that he would have been at the mercy of his enemies; but since he had capitulated upon honorable terms, which were signed in the usual form by both parties, he could not be made accountable for alleged previous misdemeanors, without the violation of a compact, which had always been considered sacred by civilized nations.
[1 ]Clinton joined Sullivan at Tioga on August 22d.
[1 ]Referred to Mr. Atlee, Mr. Armstrong, Mr. Spencer, Mr. Dickinson, and Mr. Mathews.
[1 ]Vol. V., p. 9.
[1 ]As early as August 9th Major Lee had submitted to Washington a plan for attacking Paulus Hook, based upon a suggestion of Washington; but the measure had been postponed as involving too much risk.
[2 ]Read in Congress, August 27th. Referred to Paca, Atlee, and Dickinson.
[1 ]D’Estaing had taken Grenada and St. Vincent.
[1 ]General Greene had now served as quartermaster-general for more than a year. He had accepted the appointment reluctantly, but had executed its duties with great zeal and ability, encountering obstacles, of no ordinary kind, and rendering services of the utmost importance to the army. He had been in Philadelphia in April, endeavoring to effect some arrangements, with the concurrence of Congress, in relation to the business of his department. He found Congress so dilatory, and apparently so little inclined to second his views and his efforts, that he became weary and disgusted. “I am more and more convinced,” he wrote to General Washington, “that there are measures taken to render the quartermaster’s department odious in the eyes of the people; and, if I have not some satisfaction from the committee of Congress respecting the matter, I shall beg leave to quit the department. I think I shall leave it upon as good a footing as it is possible to put it, under the present difficulties. I am informed General Lincoln’s leg is likely to render him incapable of holding his command at the southward. Should that be, and I leave the department I am now in, I should be happy to obtain it.”—April 22d. General Lincoln had just applied to Congress for permission to retire from the southern command, on account of the unfavorable state of his wound.
[1 ]Sir Henry Clinton had been disappointed in not receiving reinforcements from England, and he wrote, that the operations of the Americans had rendered utterly unsuitable the plan, to which the past movements of the campaign had only been preparatory. “I now find myself obliged by many cogent reasons,” he said, “to abandon every view of making an effort in this quarter. The precautions, which General Washington has had leisure to take, make me hopeless of bringing him to a general action, and the season dissuades me strongly from losing time in the attempt.” His thoughts were now turned to South Carolina, where the season would permit him to act by the 1st of October, and where there was reason to hope for assistance from the inhabitants, though less than at an earlier period of the war. “In order to give the effort a fair trial,” he added, “it is necessary that the corps destined for that service should get there before Washington can throw any considerable reinforcement to the southward; also before any part of the French fleet shall have come upon the coast. I am therefore employing the army to perfect the defences of New York, which at all events must be left out of reach of any insult. I shall then give the enemy every jealousy at the eastward, and, without losing a moment, the expedition will proceed to South Carolina. Having seized on the posts of Verplanck’s Point and Stony Point, with a view to offensive operations in this country, their principal importance will cease when that design is discarded; and, as without great reinforcements, which we cannot expect, nothing of consequence can be carried on again in this quarter, I shall probably abandon those posts; not having troops enough without hazard and difficulty to maintain them through the winter.”—MS. Letter to Lord George Germaine, August 21st.
[1 ]The declaration of Spain against England seems to have given rise to large projects in Congress. A proposition was made to authorize an American plenipotentiary to conclude a joint treaty of alliance between France, Spain, and the United States, on condition that France and Spain should guarantee the Floridas to the United States, and also the free navigation of the Mississippi, Canada, Nova Scotia, and the fisheries. Should this be declined, the plenipotentiary should propose, on the part of the United States, to guarantee to Spain the Floridas, the Bahama Islands, in case they should be conquered, and the navigation of the Mississippi, on condition that France and Spain would guarantee Canada and Nova Scotia to the United States. These points were warmly debated.—M. Gerard to Count Vergennes, September 10th.
[1 ]Giving an account of an action fought against the Indians and Tories at Newtown. See Marshall’s Life of Washington, vol, iv., p. 106.
[1 ]Mr. Jay, President of Congress, had written as follows: “Britain refused the mediation of Spain at a time when their spirits were elated by their successes in the West Indies and the southern States, and by the accounts they received of discord in Congress, discontent among the people, and a prospect of the evils with which we were threatened by the depreciation of our currency. Deceived by these illusory gleams of hope, they permitted their counsels to be guided by their pride. What reason they may have to expect succor from other powers is as yet a secret. M. Gerard is decided in his opinion, that they will obtain none. The conduct of France in establishing peace between Russia and the Porte has won the heart of the Empress; and the influence of Versailles at Constantinople will probably give duration to her gratitude. The Emperor and Russia are under similar obligations. The latter wishes us well, and the finances of the former are too much exhausted to support the expense of a war without subsidies from Britain, who at present cannot afford them. There is no reason to suspect that the peace of Germany will soon be interrupted. Britain may hire some troops there, but it is not probable she will be able to do more. Portugal and the Dutch, while directed by their interest, will not rashly raise their hands to support a nation, which, like a tower in an earthquake, sliding from its base, will crush every slender prop that may be raised to prevent its fall.”—August 25th.
[1 ]Notwithstanding the reinforcements that were coming to America, and the determination of the ministry to prosecute the war with vigor, Sir Henry Clinton began to be weary of the service; and in fact he had already solicited his recall.
[1 ]The person referred to was Captain Elijah Hunter, who had been recommended to Washington by Mr. Jay and General McDougall. In June, 1783, Washington wrote to him: “you obtained such intelligence either by yourself or your correspondents, of various things which passed within the British lines, as was of considerable consequence to us. Under this recollection of circumstances, I cannot hesitate to certify that I thought at the time, and still conceive, your services were of such an interesting nature as entitled you to the good opinion and favorable notice of your countrymen.” Captain Hunter may be the agent H—, mentioned in Washington’s letter to Major Benjamin Tallmadge, 27 June, 1779, printed in Vol. VII., p. 475.
[1 ]John Butler, and his son Walter.
[1 ]The fictitious name of a spy in New York.
[1 ]The identity of Culper and Culper, Jr. has been undiscovered. In Sir Henry Clinton’s Intelligence Book for June, 1781, is a record of “one Nathaniel Ruggles, who lives at Setalket,” and who sent over intelligence from Long Island every fortnight by “Brewster, who comes from Connecticut and lands at the Old Man’s. Ruggles comes to New York frequently.” Most of Culper’s letters are dated from Setauket, were written at times as frequently as once a week, and were sent to John Bolton (a name assumed by Major Tallmadge in this business) by Lieutenant or Capt. Caleb Brewster, who came over for them at such times as Culper should appoint. I have little doubt that Ruggles was Culper, but I have not been able to identify Culper, Jr.
[1 ]The British General had determined on an expedition to Carolina, and was making preparations for it, when intelligence arrived from Governor Dalling at Jamaica, that he was in great apprehension for that Island, and requested immediate succor. Sir Henry Clinton did not hesitate a moment in determining to send every possible assistance. Lord Cornwallis offered himself to take command of the land forces, and sailed in consequence on the 24th of September, with four thousand men, and all the line-of-battle ships. It was not possible to give instructions for such an enterprise. The safety of Jamaica was the first object; the protection of Pensacola the next; and the reduction of New Orleans the third, should events render it advisable. The detachment was then to join the army at Savannah. In this state of things it was impracticable to send any forces to South Carolina. This latter expedition could only be effected by withdrawing the troops from Rhode Island. Admiral Arbuthnot proposed to visit that post, and consider the expediency of an evacuation. Should that be deemed advisable, then four thousand men might be sent to the south, and although they would not reach their destination so soon by six weeks as was proposed, yet there was reason to believe they would arrive in time to be advantageously employed; but, should the French or Spaniards throw in forces, nothing more than the defence of Georgia could be expected.—Sir Henry Clinton to Lord George Germaine, September 26th.
[1 ]The same intelligence reached the British Admiral at New York two or three days earlier. It was inferred by him and Sir Henry Clinton that an attack upon New York was the object in contemplation, and the armament under Cornwallis, which had already sailed for Jamaica, was ordered back. The fleet assembled again in the harbor, and the troops were disembarked.
[1 ]Lafayette described himself as the aide-maréchale-général des logis, “a very important and agreeable place” in the French service.
[1 ]“I will frankly tell you, sir, that nothing can more effectually hurt our interests, consequence and reputation, in Europe, than to hear of disputes or divisions between the Whigs. Nothing could urge my touching upon this delicate matter but the unhappy experience of every day on this head, since I can hear myself what is said on this side of the Atlantic, and the arguments I have to combat with.”—Lafayette to the President of Congress, 12 June, 1779. “There is another point for which you should employ all your influence and popularity. For God’s sake prevent their loudly disputing together. Nothing hurts so much the interest and reputation of America, as to hear of their intestine quarrels.”—Lafayette to Washington, 12 June, 1779.
[1 ]These troops were actually designed for Canada, being the reinforcement requested by General Haldimand. They sailed on the 10th of September.
[1 ]The French minister received letters from Charleston, South Carolina, dated September 5th and 8th, conveying intelligence of the arrival of the Count d’Estaing in Georgia. These letters were immediately laid before Congress, who resolved that a copy of them should be sent to General Washington, and “that the General should also be informed of the intention of our ally, that the armament under Count d’Estaing shall operate against the enemy in these United States; and that General Washington be authorized and directed to concert and execute such plans of coöperation with the minister of France, as he may think proper.”—Secret Journals, September 26th. It was at the same time recommended to the several States, that they should furnish General Washington with such succors as he might require, both by detachments of militia, and by providing for the allied armaments ample supplies of provisions.
[1 ]Read in Congress, October 8th. Referred to delegates of Delaware, Maryland, South Carolina, to take order thereon.
[2 ]Of September 13th.
[1 ]“Since my last intelligence which I communicated to Congress, I have been advised from New York of the sudden return of the division of troops under Lord Cornwallis. A number of transports, on his Lordship’s return to the Hook, were immediately ordered for Rhode Island; part of which sailed on the 27th, and the rest on the 29th ulto.; as my correspondent supposes, to withdraw the garrison. The advice says further, that the troops under Lord Cornwallis were still on shipboard; and that the reinforcement in the fleet under the convoy of Sir Andrew Hammond, which arrived the 22d of last month, does not exceed six hundred men, and these chiefly Hessian recruits; other accounts speak of the number as much higher.”—Washington to the President of Congress, 9 October, 1779.
[1 ]Colonel Laurens declined the appointment.
[1 ]Read in Congress October 25th. Referred to Atlee, Houston, and Marchant.
[1 ]In reply to this letter President Reed said: “I am very happy that I consulted you previous to any application to Congress, who I think under all the circumstances would not have refused it; but, as I should be sorry to add to the public embarrassments, or receive any gratification, which might injure the service, I shall decline any further thoughts of the matter.”
[1 ]When the British evacuated Newport, it was thought advisable by some persons in Rhode Island to throw a garrison of militia into that place. General Gates had written on this subject, and Washington advised against the measure, giving as a reason, that the risk would be greater than any advantage that could result from it. He considered the object of the enemy to be a concentration of their force at New York, with the design of being prepared against a combined attack of Count d’Estaing’s fleet and the American forces; but, should any thing prevent Count d’Estaing from coming to the coast, and no danger should be feared from an attack, he believed they would again turn their eyes to Newport, as a convenient harbor and position for troops. In that case they would easily defeat any number of militia that might be sent there. He advised that all the works, except a few on the water-side, should be demolished, and a small body of men only be left to guard the works that remained. Should the enemy return, the principal works would thus be lost to them, and the men, from the smallness of their number, might easily effect a retreat.
[1 ]“We have waited so long in anxious expectation of the French fleet at the Hook, without hearing any thing from it, or of it, since its first arrival at Georgia, that we begin to fear that some great convulsion in the earth has caused a chasm between this and that state that can not be passed; or why, if nothing is done, or doing, are we not informed of it? There seems to be the strangest fatality, and the most unaccountable silence attending the operations to the southward that can be conceived, every measure in this quarter is hung in the most disagreeable state of suspense—and despair of doing any thing, advanced as the season is, and uncertainty of the count’s co-operating to any extent, if he should come, is succeeding fast to the flattering ideas we but lately possessed.
[1 ]General Duportail and Colonel Hamilton had left Lewistown, where they had first taken their station to watch for Count d’Estaing, and were at Great Egg Harbor when this letter was written.
[1 ]Read in Congress, November 18th.
[1 ]The troops from the several States enlisted for different periods of time.
[1 ]Thoughts on the Present State of Affairs with America, and the Means of Conciliation, a very popular pamphlet in its day, which ran through many editions.
[1 ]A parole was drawn up and presented to Governor Hamilton and his companions, by which they were to pledge themselves not to offer any offence to the United States either by actions or language. They refused to subscribe this parole, insisting that they should be allowed entire freedom of speech. Upon this refusal, they were remanded to prison; but they afterwards subscribed the parole, and were released from confinement. Mr. Jefferson wrote: “Lamothe and Dejean have given their paroles, and are at Hanover Court-House. Hamilton, Hay, and four others are still obstinate. They are therefore still in close confinement. I wrote full information of this matter to General Phillips, from whom I had received letters on the subject. I cannot in reason believe, that the enemy, on receiving this information, will venture to impose any new distresses upon our officers in captivity with them. It is my duty, as well as it was my promise to the Virginia captives, to take measures for discovering any change, which may be made in their situation. For this purpose I must apply for your Excellency’s interposition.”
[1 ]The command at West Point, after the removal of Washington’s headquarters, was offered to General Gates, but he expressed a wish to be absent for a few months in Virginia, on account of his private affairs. His request was granted, and General Heath was appointed to command at West Point.
[1 ]Read in Congress, December 1, 1779.
[1 ]Read in Congress, December 4th.
[1 ]“From the Silence of our Articles of War with respect to the right, which parties in arrest have, of challenging or objecting to Members of Courts Martials I would beg leave to submit the point to the consideration of Congress, and to request, that they will be pleased to decide—Whether the parties have such a right.—Whether it may be exercised in all or in what cases.—To what extent as to number, challenges may be made:—Whether they may be peremptory, or must be special, assigning causes—and whether the parties have the privilege of making both. These are points which appear to me necessary for forming a part of our Military code—and which can only be defined and fixed by Congress. And I will take the liberty to add, that the important trials coming on, make me solicitous for a very early determination. I have consulted many of the General Officers of the Army upon the occasion—and it seems to be a matter generally agreed—that the practice of Armies admits challenges of both sorts; but we have no rule fixing their extent or the cases in which they may be made.”—Washington to the President of Congress, 8 December, 1779.
[1 ]General Sullivan’s resignation as major-general in the army was accepted by Congress on the 30th of November. In his letter to General Washington he had expressed very strong professions of friendship, adding that he thought he could do it with the more propriety as he was about to leave the service, and could not be suspected of speaking under the influence of interested motives. He then went on to say:
[1 ]Read December 21st. Referred to the Board of War, Relating Monsr. de la Motte, Missionary to the Eastern Indians.
[1 ]A large detachment of the enemy was in readiness to depart for the South, but was delayed till it could be ascertained what measures would be pursued by Count d’Estaing, in consequence of the disaster at Savannah. General Clinton wrote to Lord George Germaine: “Every disposition is made for the embarkation of the force destined to act in Carolina, and I wait in anxious suspense for further accounts of the French fleet. Until we have these, it is thought too hazardous to proceed.”—MS. Letter, December 15th.