Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO BENJAMIN HARRISON. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. VIII (1779-1780)
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TO BENJAMIN HARRISON. - 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).
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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.