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1780. - 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 THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Congress were pleased by their resolution of the 1st of January last, to express their desire of retaining Brigadier-General Duportail, Colonels La Radière and Laumoy, and Lt. Col. De Gouvion in the service of these States for another campaign, if agreeable to them. These gentlemen, having accepted the invitation, have now completed the term to which it extended; and it is with pleasure I can inform Congress, that their subsequent conduct has more than justified the opinion expressed in my letter on which that resolution was founded. They have been particularly useful in the course of this last period, and have acquired general esteem and confidence. I cannot forbear adding, that the better the gentleman at the head of the corps is known, the more he is found to be a man of abilities and of distinguished military merit.
As the continuance of these gentlemen in the service, under present circumstances, appears to me indispensable, I have consulted General Duportail about their further intentions. His answer in behalf of the corps was, that they continue to have a sincere desire of being useful to the United States, and will esteem themselves highly honored by remaining in the service, if it be the wish of Congress, and measures are taken, through the channel of the French minister, to obtain the permission of their court; unless there should be a war by land kindled in Europe, in which case it would be their duty to return and devote their services to their own country.
It now remains with Congress to signify their intentions upon the subject; and, if they deem the continuance of these gentlemen necessary, to acquaint them with their wishes, and take the proper steps to obtain the concurrence of the French court, without which they cannot justify their stay. A period being limited in the last resolution makes this second application necessary, as the gentlemen could not with propriety out stay the time for which Congress had engaged them, without a new signification of their pleasure. I submit whether it may not be advisable to extend the requisition to the duration of the war.1 It is to be lamented, that Colonel De La Radière is no longer among the number. Congress have no doubt heard of his death, which happened in — and was regretted, as the loss of a very valuable officer. I have the honor to be, &c.
TO COLONEL DANIEL BRODHEAD, AT FORT PITT.
I have successively received your letters of the 10th, 22d of November and 13th of December. Persuaded that a winter expedition against Detroit would have great advantages over a summer one, and be much more certain of success, I regret that the situation of affairs does not permit us to undertake it. We cannot at present furnish either the men or supplies necessary for it. From the estimate you make of the enemy’s force there, your garrison with all the aid you could derive from the Militia would not be equal to the attempt, especially as it must soon suffer so large a diminution by the departure of the men, whose terms of service are expiring; and (even were it not too late in the season) to march men such a distance in time, the same circumstance, and the detachment we are making to South Carolina, put it out of our power to supply the defect of your number from this quarter. We must therefore of necessity defer the prosecution of the enterprise to a more favorable opportunity; but I would wish you not to discontinue your inquiries and preparations as far as convenient, for it is an object of too much importance to be lost sight of.
I fear also, that you will not have force for the expedition you propose to the Natches, though this is much more within the compass of our abilities. It would scarcely be prudent to leave Fort Pitt without a proportion of Continental troops for its defence. Sufficient dependance cannot be placed in the militia, and it is too valuable a post to be exposed to an accident. If you should leave only an hundred men there, besides those at the dependent posts, you would not have above one hundred and fifty for the expedition. Unless the number of the volunteers you expect exceed what I should imagine, there would be great danger to the party. We are too little acquainted with the situation of the Natches to count with assurance upon success; and, if we should fail, the party returning against stream so great a distance after a disappointment might run no small risk of being intercepted by the unfriendly Indians, through whom it would have to pass. I do not however mean to discourage the undertaking altogether, but to suggest the difficulties that occur to me, that every circumstance may be well weighed previous to entering upon it. As the business will be attended with little additional expense, I should be glad you would make every necessary preparation, and let me know when you will be completely ready, giving me an exact state of the force you will be able to employ on the expedition, and to leave at the garrisons under your command. Whatever you do should be under the veil of the greatest secrecy, as on this your success will depend. I shall be glad also, after closely examining your means, you will give me your sentiments on the practicability of the enterprise.
If I can meet with any Frenchman that answers your description, willing to be so employed, I will send him to you; and you shall have an Engineer, if you go upon any thing that requires one. I shall write to the Board of War, recommending you may be supplied with a few pieces of Artillery and a proportion of stores, to be ready against there may be a call for them. I am, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Head Qrs.,Morris Town,
The following Gentlemen, Colonels Magaw, Mathews, Ely, & Lt. Colo. Ramsay have been permitted to come out of New York on parole, with some new propositions for an exchange of prisoners, the result of a conference between Major-General Phillips and themselves. These they will have the honor of submitting to Congress, as I do not conceive myself authorized to take any steps in the business without their orders. I cannot fix the precise operation which the proposed plan would have but from such calculations as I have been able to make on the subject, from a comparative view of the propositions and the general state of the Convention Troops, Officers and men, and of the other Officers prisoners on both sides, we should have to give the Enemy for the Exchange of ours in this quarter, for whom we admit ourselves accountable—Three Cols.—Eight Lieut. Cols.—Five Majors—Thirty one Captains—Forty Eight first Lieutenants—Twenty seven second Lieutenants and Ensigns and Twenty Staff which are all the officers prisoners of War that we have—and one Major General—one Brigadr.—One Lieut. Colo.—Two Majors—Seventeen Captains Thirty seven first Lieutenants—Eleven second Lieutenants and Ensigns—Twenty Regimental Staff, and about Seven or Eight Hundred Men, non Commissioned Officers and privates of the Convention Troops, which seems to be a full calculation.—Colo. Magaw and the Gentlemen with him hope, from the conferences they had with General Phillips and the ideas he expressed of forming the first division of the Convention Troops out of the broken Corps: that the number of privates would be less, as the Officers attached to those Corps exceed the number they would have on a general scale of proportion. If this should be the case, it will be so much the better. In the Estimate of Colonels, prisoners, Lt. Governor Hamilton and a Colo. Alligood are included. Doctor Connolly is also in the list of Lt. Cols., and I do not know the state of southern prisoners and therefore can form no accurate judgement what difference their being included may make; but I should conjecture it is against us—and would add Four or five Hundred privates to what the Enemy would have to receive. It is an unlucky circumstance that we are so much in the dark about their situation and the agreements that may have been entered into concerning them by the Commanders in that Quarter. If we were in possession of these facts the propriety of including or not including them in the proposed exchange might be better determined.
The relief of the Militia Officers not taken in Arms ought if practicable to be a consequence of the exchange but I should think it best to avoid the relation established between them and Genl. Burgoyne in the 9th proposition, especially as several Officers are to be released on parole by the 3d proposition, without any immediate equivalent. As I understand from the Gentlemen that wait on Congress the exchange of the Militia Officers not taken in Arms will not be made a point by the Enemy, so as to prevent the release of our other Officers without them; but they will not admit them to parole, without some specific equivalent’s being left in their hands or at least some engagements on the part of the public ensuring their return to captivity when ever they are called. The present proposals on the part of the Enemy are more reasonable, than any they have offered before, and I should hope that they may be improved into an agreement that will give the desired relief. I have taken the liberty to offer these remarks, and shall be ready to execute whatever Congress may be pleased to direct; and, as they will be fully possessed of the propositions, I shall be happy that any instructions they may think proper to honor me with may be as particular as possible in delineating the objects they have in view.
I would farther beg leave to suggest, that if Congress approve the propositions, I think it will be advisable for them to request the several States to give up all the officers they have or claim as their prisoners, for the purpose of facilitating the exchange of ours, and as it would be the means of lessening the number of privates the Enemy would otherwise receive. If the States consent to it, the names & rank of the officers, and the places they are at, cannot be too soon communicated to me. Indeed, I regret, as I ever have, that there should be any State prisoners of war. The system has been productive at least of great inconveniences and discontents. I dont know how it first obtained; but I am certain, if it is practicable, that it cannot be too soon abolished. The indulgence which Colos. Magaw, Mathews, Ely, and Ramsay have received, is limited to a few days. This consideration, as well as the importance of the business, will, I am convinced, give them the early attention of Congress. I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO THE MAGISTRATES OF NEW JERSEY.
The present situation of the army, with respect to provisions, is the most distressing of any we have experienced since the beginning of the war. For a fortnight past the troops, both officers and men, have been almost perishing for want. They have been alternately without bread or meat the whole time, with a very scanty allowance of either and frequently destitute of both. They have borne their sufferings with a patience that merits the approbation and ought to excite the sympathy of their countrymen. But they are now reduced to an extremity no longer to be supported. Their distress has in some instances prompted the men to commit depredations on the property of the inhabitants, which at any other period would be punished with exemplary severity, but which can now be only lamented, as the effect of an unfortunate necessity. This evil would increase and soon become intolerable, were not an instant remedy to be applied.
The distresses we feel are chiefly owing to the early commencement and uncommon rigor of the winter, which have greatly obstructed the transportation of our supplies. These causes have obliged us to exhaust all the magazines in the vicinity of the camp; and, as they continue to operate, we shall be unable to derive seasonable succor from our more distant resources. From present appearances it must be more than five weeks before we can have the benefit of any material supplies beyond the limits of this State; so that, unless an extraordinary exertion be made within the State to supply the wants of the army during that space, fatal consequences must unavoidably ensue. Your own discernment makes it needless to particularize. Influenced by these considerations, my duty to the public, and my affection to the virtuous inhabitants of this State, who, next to the army, would be the most immediate sufferers, have determined me to call upon the respective counties for a proportion of grain and cattle to satisfy the present exigency.
I have adopted this mode of requisition from a regard to the ease and accommodation of the inhabitants. As you are well acquainted with the circumstances of individuals, you will be able to apportion the quantity required to the ability of each; and, as I have no doubt you will be convinced of the absolute necessity of the measure, I am persuaded your zeal for the common cause will induce you to exert your utmost influence to procure a cheerful and immediate compliance. In doing this, though you may not be authorized by the strict letter of the law, by consulting its spirit, which aims at the relief of the army, in an emergency of so pressing and peculiar a nature, you will merit the acknowledgments of your fellow-citizens.
While I have entire confidence, that you will do every thing in your power to give efficacy to this requisition, I have too high an opinion of the patriotism of the people of this State, and of their attachment to an army making every sacrifice in defence of their country, to entertain the least apprehension of their not seconding your endeavors. But at the same time I think it my duty to inform you, that, should we be disappointed in our hopes, the extremity of the case will compel us to have recourse to a different mode, which will be disagreeable to me on every account, and on none more than the probability of its having an operation less equal and less convenient to the inhabitants, than the one now recommended. I entreat you to be assured, Gentlemen, that I have given you a just representation of our distresses, of the causes, and of the time which must, in all likelihood, elapse before we can obtain relief through the ordinary channels. From this you will be sensible, that delay or indecision is incompatible with our circumstances. With the greatest respect I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO GOVERNOR TRUMBULL.
I have the honor to enclose your Excellency the copy of a letter I have just received from the late Commissary General by which you will see upon how ill a footing our future prospects of supplies are, particularly with respect to meat. This corresponds with representations from every quarter and with what we actually feel. The army has been near three months on a short allowance of bread; within a fortnight past almost perishing. They have been sometimes without bread, sometimes without meat; at no time with much of either, and often without both. They have borne their distress, (in which the officers have shared a common lot with the men,) with as much fortitude as human nature is capable of; but they have been at last brought to such a dreadful extremity that no authority or influence of the officers—no virtue or patience in the men themselves, could any longer restrain them from obeying the dictates of their sufferings. The soldiery have in several instances plundered the neighboring inhabitants even of their necessary subsistence. Without an immediate remedy this evil would soon become intolerable, and unhappily for us, we have no prospect of relief through the ordinary channels. We are reduced to this alternative, either to let the army disband or to call upon the several counties of this State to furnish a proportion of cattle and grain for the immediate supply of our wants. If the magistrates refuse their aid, we shall be obliged to have recourse to a military impress. But this, Sir, is an expedient as temporary in its relief as it is disagreeable in its execution and injurious in its tendency. An Army is not to be supported by measures of this kind. Something of a more permanent and effectual nature must be done. The legislative authority of the respective States must interpose its aid. The public treasury is exhausted; we have no magazines anywhere that I know of; the public officers have neither money nor credit to procure supplies. I assure your Excellency, as far as my knowledge extends, this is a faithful representation of our affairs. Our situation is more than serious, it is alarming. I doubt not your Excellency will view it in the same light, and that the Legislature of the State of Connecticut will give a fresh proof of their wisdom and zeal for the common cause by their exertions upon the present occasion; and I hope I shall be thought to be justified by circumstances when I add, that unless each State enters into the business of supplying the army, as a matter seriously interesting to our political salvation, we may shortly be plunged into misfortunes from which it may be impossible to recover.
I have made a similar representation to all the States on which we depend for supplies. Maryland has passed an act which promises us much assistance in the article of flour and forage, though it must be some time before we can feel the benefit of it. She has appointed commissioners in each County with full power to purchase or impress all the grain in the State, more than is sufficient for the use of the inhabitants, and has interested them in a vigorous execution of the Commission.
I flatter myself the other States will make equal exertions; and then we shall escape the calamities with which we are now threatened.1
I have the honor to be, &c.
TO LORD STIRLING.
12 January, 1780.
The difficulty of making an attempt, upon the enemy on Staten Island, being in a great measure removed by the renewal of the frost and the enterprise, in case it should not succeed, not very likely to be attended with bad consequences, provided the state of the ice affords a ready and safe passage and return, (which is to be the Basis of the Expedition), I am inclined to direct the attempt and to intrust the command and execution of it to your Lordship.1
The Troops allotted for this Expedition are, the detachment of 750 men already on the lines under the command of Brig.-Genl. Irvine; the detachment of 1,000 men which marched this day under the command of Colo. Hazen, as a relief to Gen. Irvine; a detachment of between three and four hundred under the command of NA, which will leave Camp on Friday Morning in Sleds, and a fourth detachment of 500 men under the command of Colo. Walter Stewart, which will also leave Camp on Friday Morning, and join the Main Body or act separately, as your Lordship may, upon a further investigation of circumstances, judge most proper.
The objects in view are to captivate the Troops on the Island and bring off or destroy all public stores of every kind, and fat cattle and sheep, if time and circumstances will allow.
To point out any precise plan of operation would be wrong in me. Your movements must be governed by information and circumstances. You are therefore at full liberty to pursue such measures as shall appear most conducive to attain the objects of your command. I shall, however, give you my present ideas of the several matters which appear to me worthy of your Lordship’s attention.
From the best information I have been able to obtain the Enemy’s force on Staten Island does not exceed 1,000 men. The principal part of whom it is said are in hutts near their Redoubts at the Watering place; the Queen’s Rangers, about 200, at Richmond, and Buskirk’s Regiment, of near one hundred at Decker’s.
To get on the Island without discovery is so essentially necessary, that the complete success of the enterprise depends absolutely upon it. Every device and stratagem therefore should be used to effect it, by eluding or seizing their Guards or Patrols, and deceiving their spies on this side.
The greatest part of Irvine’s detachment being at and in the neighborhood of Elizabeth Town, and Hazen’s marching to Connecticut Farms in the Vicinity thereof, will draw the enemy’s attention in a particular manner to that quarter. By crossing Stewart’s detachment, therefore, at the old Blazing Star or, which would be still more unsuspected, at or near Dusaway’s, (by a mill which is on the Island) about the hour of ten at night, and pushing it to Richmond, with the caution I have already suggested, I think there is a moral certainity of surprising the troops at that place.
As the attempt upon Richmond, whether successful or not, will give an alarm, and that alarm will communicate very quickly thro’ the Island, the co-operation of the main Body must be well timed, or the enemy on the other quarter will probably, by previously putting themselves in a posture of defence, defeat the effect of the operation against them.
It is not likely that any number of prisoners will be taken, unless the Redoubts on the Watering place are possessed very early by us. And as I take it for granted that they can only be possessed by surprise, I would propose the following mode of effecting it.—The main Body to cross at Trembly’s point on account of the goodness of the Ice, and because it seems an unsuspected place, and march immediately to the Cross Roads at Parker’s before they separate. From hence, two parties of 100 men each, covered by 800 or 1000 men are to move as rapidly as possible for the Redoubts at the Watering place, by the Cross Roads at Merserau’s, continuing along the Middle Road, provided, the Enemy have not taken the alarm; in that case I conceive the attempt would be fruitless. The parties of 100 men, if not interrupted, are to advance each to a Redoubt and endeavor to surprise it, before it can be reinforced. If they succeed, they can with ease hold the Works untill the support comes up—If they fail—they are again to unite with the covering party, and proceed to Decker’s on the lower Road—first burning the Hutts of the enemy if practicable.
The remainder of the troops, (if a separation should not be deemed uneligible) may, one half take post at the Cross Roads at Parker’s and the other at the Cross Roads, a mile beyond, at J. Merserau’s and Dawson’s, with orders to halt there untill the parties designed for the surprise of the Forts have full time to reach them (to do which will I conceive require three hours.) During this time they may probably intercept retreating parties from Richmond: but they are not to remain longer for this, or any other purpose, than the three hours, at the expiration of which they are to form a junction at the last mentioned Cross Roads (Merserau’s and Dawson’s) and push immediately for Decker’s, beating up the Enemy’s quarters and driving them towards the forts at the Watering place, whither it is supposed they will retreat. But if the Garrison at Decker’s should not evacuate it, nor appear disposed to surrender upon a peremptory challenge and threat to burn them out, or if parties should throw themselves into houses, it should not retard the pursuit of the fugitives, parties may be left to watch them, or should we succeed in the principal attacks, they will afterwards fall of course.
To secure the Garrison of Decker’s effectually, should they incline to make resistance, a number superior to those within may be left there, till Artillery can be brought up to reduce them. But as the occasion for Artillery is at the present a matter of very great uncertainty, and as it would, in the present state of the Roads, exceedingly retard and encumber your march, I should not think it advisable to pass any even in the first instance. It may be so disposed near Elizabeth Town as to come to you at a moment’s notice by De Harts point.
If the party under Colo. Stewart succeeds in the attempt upon Richmond, the prisoners under the escort of the worst and most fatigued men may be immediately sent to Brunswic, and be directed to endeavor to form a junction with the main Body by the Road leading from Richmond to the Watering place, by Decker’s.
It is a difficult matter to combine operations so perfectly in point of time as that one part will not impede, if not totally defeat the other, and this, it is to be feared, will be the case in the present instance, if there is an attempt to surprise the troops at Richmond and at the Watering place at the same time. The latter is important, but precarious; the other is of less consequence, but more certain. From observation and information, after you get down, you must determine which to prefer, if an attempt on both at the same time should be deemed ineligible. You will give Colo. Stewart orders accordingly, with whom you must keep up the best correspondence you can before crossing, furnishing him with your watch-words, &c.
If it should be found that the Enemy on the Island cannot derive succor from New York, that there is no appearance of the Frost breaking up, and that by remaining upon the Island we can starve them into a compliance by confining them to their Works, the experiment ought by all means to be made, and measures shall be taken here to give every possible aid.
Plank will be prepared for Platforms to go on and off the Ice, and the officers must take care to keep the troops in open order while passing. An officer in whose diligence you can confide, should reconnoitre the crossing place before night and make observations on the opposite shore. He should cross over with a party of 15 or 20 chosen men at least half an hour before the Column comes down, having sent forward two or three trusty men to see that the coast is clear, he should follow with his party and so dispose of them as to seize any patrols or suspicious persons.
Some of Webb’s men cloathed in Red would be best for this duty and to be always in advance.
Every disposition should be made before crossing, the officers for the different services well instructed, and Guides assigned them, that there may not be the least delay after the line of march is taken up.
Every officer should have a Roll of the platoon he commands and see that no man absents himself; the most profound silence should be observed under pain of instant death.
White Cockades or some Badge of distinction should be worn by our officers and men, and the Watch word should be such as may deceive the Enemy—for instance Clinton, Cornwallis, Skinner, &c., &c.
There should be no firing if it is possible to avoid it in the several attacks. The Bayonet will be found the most effectual weapon especially in the night.
In case of success, the Value of every thing that is public property or lawful plunder shall be divided in first proportion among the officers and men. And if any officer or soldier attempts to appropriate any thing to his own particular use, he shall be compelled to deliver it up, shall forfeit all pretensions to a common share, and shall be punished at the discretion of a Court Martial for disobedience of Orders. No private property to be brought off on any pretence whatever, except fat Cattle, &c., as before mentioned.
Heartily wishing success to the enterprise, and every possible honor and glory to your Lordship and the troops concerned, I am with much truth and sincerity, &c.1
TO THE BOARD OF WAR.
Head Quarters, 15 January, 1780.
* * * With regard to the point about aides de camp, on which the Board are pleased to request my sentiments it is clearly my opinion, that those appointed before the 27th May, 1778, and now in service as aides, and who are not admissible into any State line, are eligible to commands and to sit on courts martial, according to the ranks given by the Resolution of the 5 June, 1776, as they may respectively apply, and may be nominated occasionally to either, by special order, when the commander in chief, or officer commanding in any department where they are shall think proper. This I hold to be the case with respect to every officer serving with the army to whom Rank has been given. In a military point of view, rank necessarily implies a capacity to be elected to command, or to sit on courts martial, and the only essential difference between aides and officers under the description I have mentioned, and others, is the last are attached permanently to particular corps by their commissions—the first, to the line of the army at large, but not to any particular corps, and when employed it is on detachments, and of course only temporarily. The case of these is nearly similar to that of general officers who have no particular corps designated in their commissions for their command, but who depend on a special order for the purpose. Without this, such aides, &c., cannot command, but when this is given, all officers in the detachment to which they are appointed, of inferior rank, or of the same, but of posterior appointments, are subject to them. And whether the rank is conferred by a commission of the common form, or by brevet, or by an act of the States in Congress, it is equally valid, and its operation must be precisely the same in these instances. Were a contrary principle to be established, the rank given these officers would be a mere sound, void of reality or any meaning. Besides such a conclusion being intirely unmilitary, it would be the extreme of injustice, at least, to many gentlemen under these descriptions, whose services have been long, faithful, and I cannot but add of great advantage to their country. As to the issuing of commissions for them, and the sort they should be, it will be with the Board, or perhaps with Congress to decide; but it appears to me that it would only be right for them to receive commissions of the usual form, confirming their Rank from the times of their appointment, where they were properly made, and securing to them every emolument of service. With respect to Brigade Majors, I cannot find any resolution giving them rank.
It is to be regretted that there has been such a want of system in this business, and that some gentlemen have received one sort of commissions and some another, while others, whose pretensions are equal on every consideration, have received none at all.
TO JOHN PARKE CUSTIS.
Morristown, 20 January, 1780.
I should have acknowledged the receipt of your letter of the twelfth ult. long since, but for the many important matters which have claimed my attention.
My letter which missed you on its passage to Williamsburg, will acquaint you (as there is little doubt of its having got to hand long ere this) of the footing I proposed to put the valuation of the cattle upon that you had of me. I only wished to hear upon what principle Colonel Bassett acted, as I thought it ungenteel to give a gentleman the trouble of performing a service, and disregard it so much afterwards as not even to inquire upon what grounds he went. As I want nothing but justice, and this being your aim, it is scarce possible for us to disagree; but there is one thing which ought to be held in remembrance, and I mention it accordingly, and that is, that I should get no more real value for my cattle at £40 apiece, payable in the fall of 1779, than I should have got @ £10 the preceding fall, provided the money had been then paid. For example, you could have got two barrels of corn in 1778 for £10, and I can get no more now for £40. With respect to other things it is the same. It would be very hard, therefore, by keeping me out of the use of the money a year, to reduce the debt three-fourths of the original value—which is evidently the case, because the difference between specie and paper, in the fall of 1778, was about four to one only—now the difference is upwards of thirty; consequently, ten pounds paid at that period was equal to 50 shillings good money; but paid at this day, is not worth, nor will it fetch more than a dollar. Had the money been paid, and put into the loan office at the time you say the cattle ought to have been valued, I should have received a proportionate interest—that is, as the money depreciated the nominal sum for the interest would, by a resolve of Congress, have increased, and I should have got the real value in the interest: whereas, if you pay me £10 in loan office certificates of this date for my cattle, I shall receive for every £10 or 50s., which is the relative worth of it, according to the then difference of exchange, one dollar and no more.
These are self evident truths; and nothing, in my opinion, is more just and reasonable, if you can come at, and do fix the value of the cattle at what they were worth in the fall of 1778, and would then have been appraised at, that you should pay loan office certificates of that date; for had you paid me the money at that time, I should have lent it to the public, if there had been no other use for it, as, it is not a custom with me to keep money to look at.
This reasoning may, in part, be considered as an answer to so much of your letter of the twelfth of December, as relates to the payment of the annuity for the dower estate. You do not seem disposed to make the just and proper distinction between real and nominal sums. A dollar is but a dollar, whether it passed in silver at 6s., or paper at £6, or sixty pounds. The nominal value, or the name, is but an empty sound, and you might as well attempt to pay me in oak leaves, with which I can purchase nothing, as to give me paper money that has not a relative value to the rent agreed on.
If you have been unfortunate in your crops, or in the means of raising money from your estate, I am sorry for it, and do not by any means wish to put you to an inconveniency in paying the rent at this time which became due the first of this month. It may lie till my wants, or your convenience is greater, but as it was certainly the expectation of us both that this annuity was to be raised and paid out of the produce of your crops, a moment’s reflection and calculation must convince you that it is full as easy to do it at this day, (if you have those crops,) as at any period before or since the war began, because the difference between the old and present prices of every article raised upon a plantation or farm, bears at least an equal proportion to the difference between specie and paper. It is a matter of little consequence then, whether you pay £30 in paper, or 20s. in specie, when the same quantity of corn, wheat, tobacco, or any other article you possess will fetch the former with more ease now, than it would the latter in the best of times.
The fact is, that the real difference, between the prices of all kinds of country produce now and before the war, is greater than between specie and paper. The latter in Philadelphia, being about thirty, when it is well known that the former, in many things, is at least a hundred, and in scarce any article less than forty. Witness flour, wheat, Indian corn, &c., which are the great articles of produce of every Virginia estate. It is the unusualness of the idea, and high sound which alarms you in this business; for supposing the difference to be thirty prices, and in consequence you pay £15,750, I neither get nor do you pay a farthing more than £525, because as I have already observed, less corn, wheat, &c., will enable you to pay the former now, than it would take to pay the latter while they were at their old and accustomed prices—calling the sum, therefore, which you pay to me £15,750 or £525, is a matter of moonshine, as it is the thing not the name, that is to be regarded.
I have wrote to Mr. Lund Washington concerning Sheredine’s point, and am in some doubt whether the strip of land will compensate the expense of the bank which must be lengthy. I have left it to him, however, to determine this matter, and to apply for the ditchers, (who were about to leave you) if he should want them. If your banks are not properly executed, it is to be feared you will find more plague from the musk rats and other vermin than you seem to apprehend, when the warm weather returns.
I am glad to hear that your assembly are disposed to exert themselves in the great work of appreciation, I heartily wish them success in the attempt. We have nothing new in this quarter. The weather has been, and now is intensely cold, and we are beginning to emerge from the greatest distress on account of the want of provisions.1
My love to Nelly and the children, and I am sincerely and affectionately yours.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL GREENE.
Morris-town, 22 January, 1780.
Appear’s, and facts must speak for themselves. To these I appeal. I have been at my prest. quarters since the 1st day of Decr., and have not a Kitchen to cook a Dinner in, altho’ the Logs have been put together some considerable time by my own Guard. Nor is there a place at this moment in which a servant can lodge, with the smallest degree of comfort. Eighteen belonging to my family, and all Mrs. Ford’s, are crowded together in her Kitchen, and scarce one of them able to speak for the colds they have caught.
I have repeatedly taken notice of this inconveniency to Majr. Gibbs, and have as often been told, that boards were not to be had. I acqueesced, and believe you will do me the justice to acknowledge, yt. it never has been my practice to involve the public in any expense I could possibly avoid, or derive benefits which would be inconvenient or prejudicial to others. To share a common lot, and participate the inconveniences, wch. the army, from the peculiarity of our circumstances, are oblig’d to undergo, has with me been a fundamental principle; and, while I conceived this to be the case universally, I was perfectly content. That it is not so, I app’l to your own observation; though I never intended to make the remark, nor should I have done it, but for the question wh. involuntarily drew from me the answer, wch. has become the subject of your Letter.
Equally opposed is it to my wishes and expectation, that you should be troubled in matters respecting my accommodation, further than to give the necessary orders, and furnish materials, without which orders are nugatory. From what you have said, I am fully satisfied that the persons to whom you entrusted the execution of the business are alone to blame; for certain I am, they might by attention have obtained, (equally with others,) as many boards as would have answered my purposes long ere this. Far, very far is it from me, to censure any measure you have adopted for your own accommodation, or for the more immediate convenience of Mrs. Greene. At all times I think you are entitled to as good as circumstances will afford, and, in the present condition of your Lady, conceive that no delay could be admitted. I shd. therefore with great willingness have made my conveniences yield to hers, if the point had lain there, being very sincerely, your obedient and affectionate servant, &c.1
TO MESSRS. GERRY, LIVINGSTON, AND MATHEWS.
Head Quarters, 23 January, 1780.
I have had the honor to receive your letter of the 11th, with a copy of the Propositions to which it refers, and on which you are pleased to request my opinion.
With respect to the first proposition, I beg leave to inform you that the object of it has been anticipated in part. On the 6th of this month from the infinite distress in which we were for the want of provision, and the improbability, on account of the severity of the weather, of an attempt on the part of the enemy, I wrote to the Brigadiers and directed them with the concurrence of the Colonels and Commanding Officers of Regiments, to discharge all the soldiers in this camp, whose inlistments and terms of service would clearly expire by the 31st., which was accordingly done. As to the remaining Troops which come within the proposition, I should hope from the circumstances of the season and the detachment the enemy have made, that they might be discharged without materially affecting our military security. It would however, diminish our present force here, according to the best estimate I can form, from eight to eight hundred and fifty men, and that at West Point and Danbury where the Massachusetts and New Hampshire troops are stationed, supposing none to have been already discharged there in this month, and counting upon the columns in the muster rolls, about two thousand. In this number not any of the new Levies of Massachusetts which amount to about twelve hundred are included. The service of the majority of these will expire in April, the rest probably before. None of those from the enormous bounty they have received and the consequences to which the precedent might lead should in my opinion be discharged at any rate. But altho’ the discharge of the inlisted Troops might not endanger our military security, and the measure would be attended with a public saving; yet there are some objections to it, as their discharge before their inlistments expire of course would serve to increase the uneasiness of those, who are engaged for a longer time, or permanently, and who are but too much dissatisfied when they take place in regular order. And besides, it would entirely take away all chance of reinlisting them for the war, which however is not considerable. Our late sufferings for provision and the deficiencies in many essential articles of clothing, are very discouraging circumstances, and have not only operated to prevent this, but have occasioned great desertions. How far the considerations I have mentioned, are to be put in competition with the expence that would be saved by their dismission, Congress can best determine; but I would by all means dissuade for the reasons above, and as it would be particularly disgusting to the Troops, from the discharge of the new levies.
Considering the present reduced condition of the regiments, and that they will become still weaker, and the little probability there is that the States will put them upon so respectable a footing as to enable offensive operations to be carried on, at least to any great extent, tho’ our true interest and policy may require it, added to the embarrassments we experience on the score of provision, cloathing, and other supplies, I shall not offer anything against the proposed reform, and more especially as I am not acquainted with the views Congress may have, or with the political state of affairs in Europe. It will, however, in the execution be found a work I fear of difficulty and delicacy; and as this will always be the case, whenever a reform of this sort is made, it were to be wished, both for the sake of harmony and the good of the service, that it may be the last and calculated on such a plan and number of corps as will be certainly kept up. In conducting the business it will be happy if the mode the least exceptionable can be hit upon. What this mode should be is difficult to determine, but I should suppose it would be best to make it the effect of some general principle—such as casting of lots, or retaining the oldest and strongest regiments, or the oldest officers, or the like, which will probably have a less disagreeable operation than a mode which would be attended with particular discrimination or preferences founded on supposed merits. The officers of the reduced regiments to be incorporated as well as the men in their respective lines, as far as it can be done till the corps retained are compleat; and the rest to retire on the allowance proposed. I would not however recommend the 5th proposition in its present extent for two reasons: one is, the reintroducing the supernumerary officers into the corps kept up as vacancies happened, would in most cases be the cause of discontent and the means of perpetuating it; the other is, they would be obliged to hold themselves in constant readiness to join the army when called upon, and consequently could not pursue any other occupation to advantage. Besides, as promotion is looked for, as it should be, as the reward of service, the not conferring it upon the officers whose fortune it had been to be retained, when occasion offered, might lessen their ardor, and take away a primary inducement to a good and proper conduct.
I have mentioned an incorporation of the officers as well as of the men, because we are exceedingly deficient with respect to them, and the same is suffering greatly for the want; and as it will be the means of providing the regiments with a proper number, which could not be done by new appointments, admitting for a moment that they would be equally good, as there are few, if any to be found at this time, willing to engage in a service which promises at best but little emolument if not a certainty of loss. And while I am on this subject, I would beg leave to add, that it appears to me essential to promote the public good, that the establishment adopted on the 27th of May, 1778, so far as it respects the giving of companies to field officers, should be altered, and a captain be appointed to each. Owing to the deduction of captains by this institution, the appointing them aids de camp, &c., and the other drafts upon the officers for the regimental staff, their resignation and accidental sickness, we find the number left with the corps absolutely insufficient even for their good order and government while in camp.
The scheme of reduction I suppose will be extended to the corps and regiments not belonging to any particular State. The case of the officers belonging to these is rather more embarrassing than that of the officers in the State lines, from the certainty of its being impracticable to incorporate them with the latter, a circumstance to be regretted, as there are several in those corps of great merit and in general inferior to none in the service. If they could be incorporated with the rest, it were much to be wished; but as this cannot, I think, be done, I see nothing left for it but to incorporate those corps with each other, so as to compleat such of them as are retained; and I should hope as they will be there extremely valuable, that effectual measures will be taken for keeping them respectable and rendering their situation, both officers and men, as comfortable in point of supplies as those belonging to the particular States. At present their condition, or at least that of most of them, is painfully distressing, and such as renders some reform or mode of relief, absolutely necessary. Indeed it is to be wished that the several States had it all equally in their power to assist the officers and men belonging to their respective lines with necessaries, for even among these the discriminations in this instance are great, and the source of uneasiness; but in the case of many of the corps that do not come within that description, there is not the smallest relief extended to them.
I will only beg leave to observe in addition to what I have said, that whatever plan it shall be the pleasure of Congress to adopt, whether to reduce the regiments or not, it appears to me they cannot decide too soon upon it; and that their requisitions for men to the States, if not already made, for filling the regiments they determine to keep up, should not be longer deferred. Events possibly may take place to make this unnecessary, but I think we ought not to relax in our preparations, as the enemy would ascribe it to our inability and might be encouraged perhaps to persevere in the war, which otherwise they might judge it their interest to bring to a conclusion. And besides our relaxing in our preparations might impress our ally and the Court of Spain with concern, and produce sentiments and indeed a conduct that might be very unfavorable to us. The earliest measures will not be sufficient to effect a proper arrangement in time; and if they are not taken immediately we shall open the campaign and continue it in the most confused and disordered state—such as policy and a regard to the reputation of our arms should prevent as far as it can be done. This will readily be perceived by recurring to the state of the army which I had the honor of submitting to Congress in my letter of the 18th of November, and in a more particular manner by that of the Virginia Troops, transmitted in a subsequent correspondence, which will but too well answer for a representation of the state of the rest.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL ST. CLAIR.
You will be pleased to repair to our lines and investigate the causes of the late misfortune and disgrace at Elizabeth Town, &c., and report your opinion thereupon, as soon as inquiry is made.1 You will also examine into the state of our Guards, and see if any change can be made in their position for the better; havg. respect, as far as present circumstances will allow, to the objects in view, which are security to this camp, cover to the country near the enemy’s lines, and for prevention of that injurious and abominable traffic, which is carried on with the city of New York.
While you are in the discharge of this duty, it is my wish, that you would obtain, in as unsuspected a manner as possible, a perfect knowledge of the enemy’s strength, situation, and guards &c., on Staten Island and at Paulus hook, the state of the ice on the No. River, and such other information as it may be beneficial and important for us to be acquainted with. It is my wish, also, that you may obtain a compleate knowledge of the places and manner in which the Enemy’s shipping, flat-boats, and other craft are laid up and secured, thereby discovering whether some successful attempt, by stratagem or otherwise, may not be made to destroy them. The relief, which went down to the Detachment under the Command of Colo. Hazen, when joined thereto, will form a body of 2,000 Rank and file; and as there were reasons for apprehending that the enemy had some offensive plan in view, (which actually took place that very night,) I ordered Colonel Hazen to remain there with his command a few days, or till further orders. You will please to take command of both detachments, and retain the old till the objects here enumerated are fulfilled, unless you should think best to order the return of it to camp before. If in the course of your tour of duty below, and investigation of the enemy’s posts, any operation upon a large or small scale presents itself, you will delay no time in communicating your ideas fully on the subject to me, provided in the latter instce. a favourable opportunity is not lost by delay, in wch. case you are left altogether to your own discretion; bearg. in mind always, that new disappointments will add discredit to our arms. But, while the state of the Ice admits a free and easy passage of Troops from New-York, any attempt otherwise than by surprise may be dangerous. Given at Head-Qrs., Morristown, the 27th day of Jan., 1780.
TO ELBRIDGE GERRY, IN CONGRESS.
Hd. Q’rs,Morris Town, Jany. 29, 1780.
I received Your obliging Letter of the 12th. I am sorry to find, that Congress had not at that time made any requisitions of men from the States, as it appears to me that the army, without reinforcements, by the expiration of the enlistments of so many Men, and of the service of the new levies, as they are called, will be much more reduced than will be compatible with our interests and policy. It was in part from the possibility, that such an idea, as the one you suggest to have obtained with some, might take place, that I was induced to mention, in my Letter of the 18th of November, the essential difference between an army on paper, and its real efficient force, and to illustrate the point, by contrasting the column of the present fit for duty in the Return transmitted, with that of the Total. The hopes indulged, from the beginning of the Contest to the present day, from time to time, that a peace would soon take place, have been the source at least of great expense, and they may still prove so and the means of protracting the war. There is nothing so likely to produce peace, as to be well prepared to meet an Enemy; and from this persuasion, and the effect you justly observe the contrary on our part might have on the mind of the Court of France, and also on that of Spain, I think it would be right for us to hold forth at least every appearance of preparation and vigor, and really to do what our abilities and the circumstance of our finance may well justify. The latter I own is a most important consideration; but I cannot judge how far the state of it may or may not require retrenchments and a spirit of economy, or indeed inactivity in our affairs. You will however perceive, by a Letter to Congress, of the 18th by Baron Steuben, that I have again mentioned my opinion of the propriety of placing the army on a more respectable footing, than it will be at the opening of the Campaign, without their interposition; and that I have offered the same in my Letter to you, Mr. Livingston, and Mr. Mathews.
With respect to provision, the situation of the army is comfortable at present on this head, and I ardently pray, that it may never be again as it has been of late. We were reduced to a most painful and delicate extremity; such as rendered the keeping of the troops together a point of great doubt. The exertions of the magistrates and inhabitants of this State were great and cheerful for our relief. I have had my attention much engaged by a variety of pressing business, and must rely on your indulgence to excuse an earlier acknowledgment of your favor.1
I am, dear Sir, with great regard and esteem, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL SCHUYLER.
My dear Sir,
Your fair daughter, for whose visit Mrs. Washington and myself are greatly obliged, did me the honor to present your favor of the — Inst.—for which, and the several useful hints (if it should be in my power to extend my views to St. Johns) contained in it, you have my hearty thanks.
To the several matters for investigation, mentioned in my letter of the 25th Ulto. permit me to add a further enquiry into the place and manner of securing the enemy’s vessels on lake Champlain. This is become essential from accidental information rec’d the other day which, though not delivered as authentic, has at least the semblance of truth. It is that the enemy during the frost scuttle and sink their vessels under the Guns of St. Johns. Should this be the fact there is not an object to compensate the fatigue, hardships, and risks to which troops must be exposed in such an enterprize (if other matter should answer) nor could I stand justified for exposing them to these, or the public to the expence, which would arise from the expedition.
I am perfectly in sentiment with you respecting the policy of making friends of those Indians we have lately chastised and all others, and of the expediency of doing it at this time. The hour of victory, we are informed by Lord North, is the time for negotiation. That hour, so far as they are concerned, is come; and it would be wrong in my judgment, to force them, irrecoverably, into the arms of the enemy. To compel a people to remain in a state of desperation, and keep them at enmity with us, when no good is to be expected from it and much evil may follow, is playing with the whole game against Us. If any security therefore can be had of their Aid, (if circumstances should require it)—or neutrality under all circumstances, We should, by being rid of a dangerous and distressing Foe (which they certainly are,) be relieved of a heavy expence, and acquire more freedom to our Arms in other quarters—and, which is a consideration of no small weight, must embarrass the enemy not a little in the field, the cabinet, and at negotiation, if matters come to this.
How far, my good Sir, would it be practicable if the Indians should be disposed to more than a neutrality, either by themselves, or with the aid of a few men in disguise, to seize the Fortress of Niagara? A proof like this, of returning friendship, would be interesting and masterly; but from the numbers adequate to the execution of such a plan, who must be brought acquainted with the scheme, it more than probably would be known by the enemy, and of course be defeated. Next to this would it be possible to surprize it ourselves, without their aid (or with the assistance of a few trusty guides only before the frost breaks up,) by a rapid movement of an adequate number of men in sleds from Fort Schuyler? The enterprize, more than probably, would be very unexpected, and consequently, likely on that account to succeed, if the Wood Creek, Onondago River, and border of the lake Ontario were in such a state as not to impede the progress of Slaies with proper degree of rapidity.
If there are obstacles in the way of either of these projects which may seem too difficult to be surmounted, cannot some successful attempt be made by a detachment from the garrison at Fort Schuyler, the Indians, or a party of both, on the vessels in lake Ontario which are, I believe usually laid up at Buck Island?
I need not tell you that these are crude, undigested thoughts—thrown out more with a view of learning your sentiments of them, than as the result of deliberate thinking. If you should hold a treaty, or have a meeting with the Indians, such information may be derived from the most intelligent of them, as to shew how practicable either of the projects here mentioned is.
There is no doubt but that Lake Champlain is sufficiently closed—but how long may we expect it to continue so? Will the Snow be any impediment to the Passage of Slaies to St. Johns? Is it known whether the borders of Lake Ontario (especially the hither side which is the most exposed to the boisterous Winds) are ever so frozen as to admit a passage for Slaies? What may be the difficulties of getting from Fort Schuyler to Oswego?
Since the date of my last we have had the virtue and patience of the Army put to the severest trial. Sometimes it has been 5 or six days together without bread; at other times as many days without meat; and once or twice two or three days without either. I hardly thought it possible, at one period, that we should be able to keep it together, nor could it have been done but for the exertions of the Magistrates in the several Counties of this State, on whom I was obliged to call, expose our situation to them, and in plain terms declare, that we were reduced to the alternative of disbanding or catering for ourselves, unless the magistrates would afford us their aid. I allotted to each County a certain proportion of flour or grain—and a certain number of Cattle, to be delivered on certain days; and for the honor of the Magistrates and good disposition of the people, I must add that my requisitions were punctually complied with, and in many Counties exceeded. Nothing but this great exertion could have saved the army from dissolution, or starving; as we were bereft of every hope from the Commissaries. At one time the Soldiers eat every kind of horse food but Hay. Buck Wheat, common wheat, Rye, and Indn. Corn was the composition of the Meal which made their bread. As an Army they bore it with a most heroic patience; but sufferings like these, accompanied by the want of Cloaths, Blankets, &c., will produce frequent desertions in all armies and so it happened with us, tho’ it did not excite a mutiny. * * *
TO THE CHEVALIER DE LA LUZERNE.
Major Galvan delivered to me the letter, which your Excellency did me the honor to write to me on the 23d of January, and to which I have paid all the attention the importance of its contents demands. I am much flattered by this commencement of a correspondence, from which I have every thing to gain; and equally indebted for the interesting communications it affords.
It is a happy circumstance, that the efforts made by the British court for obtaining troops in Germany are attended with so little success. This will naturally increase their exertions for procuring men in this country, and will no doubt make them more solicitous for effecting the exchange or release in some way or other of their prisoners in our hands. It will be well, if, in the negotiations on this subject, we can extract concessions favorable to those, which may take place in Europe, and you may depend the experiment shall be fully tried. But, from the aspect of the late propositions on the part of the enemy, I should not entertain any sanguine hopes of the success of this experiment. The reinforcement they would derive from a full compliance with their proposals is not calculated at more than ten or eleven hundred private men; and this seems hardly to be an object of sufficient magnitude to induce them to concede to points of the nature, which your Excellency’s information supposes; especially, as you emphatically express it, “after having sought with so much affectation to make the thirteen States be considered as subjected to the English domination.” The offers made through Major-General Phillips are far more moderate, than any that have hitherto come from them, and appear in a great measure to have been influenced by his personal solicitations, dictated by an extreme anxiety to be released from captivity. But notwithstanding the matter in its present form wears to me the appearance I have mentioned, I shall not neglect any measure, which it may be in my power to take to improve the intimation your Excellency has given; and I entreat you to be assured, that I shall endeavor to make the event confirm the opinion you do me the honor to entertain, that nothing will be done derogatory to the magnanimous part your court has acted, or to the honor or interest of the United States.1
The inconsistency of the court of London, so well delineated by that of Madrid in the extract you had the goodness to annex, would appear extraordinary, if their whole conduct in the course of the war did not exhibit many similar examples. But it is evident, that their refusing to consider these States as independent, of fact, during a negotiation, was a mere pretext to cover their unwillingness to concur in the pacific views of his Catholic Majesty; and the Memorial from the British ambassador shows, that they were artfully aiming to effect a separation of interests between France and these States, the better to prosecute their hostile designs against either or both.1
I thank your Excellency for the agreeable intelligence you give me, of his Most Christian Majesty’s intentions to send over succors of arms and ammunition. It is a new and valuable proof of his friendship, and will be of essential utility. I agree with you, that there ought to be no relaxation in the measures otherwise intended to be taken to procure the necessary supplies of those articles.
I am sensibly mortified, that the present situation of affairs will by no means suffer me to yield to the desire I have of paying you my respects in Philadelphia; and I shall impatiently look for the opportunity of doing it here, which your Excellency promises me in the course of this month. Besides the important objects of public utility, which I am authorized to hope from it, I shall take pleasure in every occasion of testifying to you those sentiments of respect and esteem, with which I have the honor to be your Excellency’s, &c. * * *
TO MAJOR BENJAMIN TALLMADGE.
Morristown, 5 February, 1780.
I have received two letters of yours from Weathersfield, one dated the 15th of Jany., the other without a date. By Colo. Blaine, who I expect will be the bearer of this I send Twenty guineas, and two phials containing the Stain and counter part of the stain for C— Junior, which I wish may be got to him with as much safety and despatch as the case will conveniently admit of. It is my further most earnest wish, that you would press him to open, if possible, a communication with me by a more direct rout than the present. His accts. are intelligent, clear, and satisfactory—consequently would be valuable, but owing to the circuitous rout, thro’ which they are transmitted, I can derive no immediate or important advantages from them; and, as I rely upon his intelligence, the only satisfaction that I derive from it is, that other accts. are either confirmed, or corrected by his, after they have been some time received. I am sensible of the delicacy of his situation and the necessity of caution. For these reasons it is, I have hitherto forborne, and am still unwilling to mention persons to him as the vehicles of conveyance, lest they shd. not prove so trustworthy and prudent as we could wish. But if he cannot form the first link of the chain of communication himself, and will let me know it, I think I can name one or two men to him, who will receive and convey to me (through others) such intelligence as he may think important; but he should avoid making use of the stain upon a blank sheet of Paper, (which is the usual way of its coming to me). This circumstance alone is sufficient to raise suspicion. A much better way is to write a letter a little in the Tory stile, with some mixture of family matters, and, between the lines and on the remaining part of the sheet, communicate with the stain the intended intelligence. Such a letter would pass through the hands of the enemy unsuspected; and, even if the agents should be unfaithful or negligent, no discovery would be made to his prejudice, as these people are not to know that there is concealed writing in the letter, and the intelligent part of it would be an evidence in his favor.
You will be so good as to communicate these several matters to him, in a full and clear manner, and inform me of the result. The choice of a proper name or character to address his Letters to, if they come through the channel I have recommended, is a matter worthy of consideration. I have written to Genl. Poor to furnish a man, as you desire, and have him sent to Lieutt. Brewster at Fairfield. I am, &c.
TO BARON STEUBEN, AT PHILADELPHIA.
I have received your letter of the 26th bro’t down to the 29th of January, with the papers annexed, and have carefully considered the contents, on which I shall give you my sentiments with freedom and confidence. The principal point, on which your memorial to Congress turns, is the force requisite for the next campaign. To determine this on good grounds, we ought first to settle the following question; Will it be in our power to make an offensive, or must we content ourselves with a defensive campaign?
It is not possible to decide this question without a more intimate knowledge of our resources of finance, than I at present possess, and without ascertaining whether our allies can afford a squadron for an effectual coöperation on this continent. I think with vigorous exertions we may raise a sufficient number of men for offensive operations, if we were able to maintain them; but, from the view I have of our affairs, I do not believe the state of our treasury will permit this without assistance from abroad. Whether this is to be obtained, Congress alone can judge. On the other hand, from the particular situation of the enemy’s posts in this quarter, I should not advise to calculate measures on the principle of expelling them, unless we had certain assurances that an adequate naval force will be ready to coöperate with us through all contingencies. If a foreign aid of money and a fleet are to be depended upon, I should then recommend that all our dispositions should have reference to an offensive and decisive campaign; and in this case I should ask at least one third more men than your estimate, to be immediately raised by a general draft.
But as I doubt whether these two preliminaries can be placed upon such a footing of certainty, as to justify our actg. in consequence, I imagine we must of necessity adopt the principle of a defensive campaign, and pursue a system of the most absolute œconomy. On this principle, however, if I understand your estimate, I do not think it will be more than sufficient. I suppose you mean the 23,000 for our total number. When the deductions for unavoidable casualties are made, this number will give us less than twenty thousand for our efficient operating force. This is as little as we can well have to contain the enemy within bounds, and prevent their making any further progress. Including the detachment which lately sailed from New York, they have near 2,000 men fit for actual service in these states; to say nothing of the recruits they will probably send over to complete their battalions, which will be an augmentation of force. For these reasons I approve the estimate you have proposed, as best suited to our present circumstances.
The number of cavalry you propose is in good proportion, and in a military sense necessary. Cavalry, if there is an active scene to the Southward, will be particularly useful there; but the question of expense is a very serious one, and, like the rest, must be referred to those who are acquainted with our money resources. Another point is, whether the regiments had better be incorporated with each other and completed or left as they are and completed to such a standard as will give the number of men required. A Committee of Congress, as you have been informed, sent me a proposal, which has been referred to their consideration, for reducing the number of battalions, and asked my opinion upon it. Though I was fully sensible of the inconveniences, which will infallibly attend a reduction, I did not dissuade from it, principally upon two accounts: one, a conviction that the embarrassments in our finances require every expedient for saving expense: the other, the incompetency of the present number of officers to the present number of corps. But though I do not disapprove, I am far from being much attached to this plan. Congress can best balance the advantages and disadvantages, and determine which preponderate.
I sincerely wish what you recommend with respect to Magazines could be carried into execution, but I fear it will be impracticable in the present extent. Every thing, however, that is possible ought to be attempted. There is no danger of the Magazines exceeding our wants; and we have been under dreadful embarrassments, through the whole course of the war, from temporary and precarious supplies. The arms ought, at all events, to be provided. I have issued an order requiring the returns demanded by the Board of War, to be made out with all despatch. They will be forwarded as fast as they are collected.
There are some points of inferior importance in your memorial which I approve that do not require a particular enumeration. I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO GOVERNOR LIVINGSTON.
19 February, 1780.
I have just received a letter from Mr. Symmes, one of the Supreme Judges of this State, transmitting to me a copy of a letter of the 14th instant to the honorable House of Assembly, on the subject of complaints made to him by soldiers in the Continental army, of their being detained in service beyond the period for which they were engaged, and recommending the speedy direction and inquiry of the Legislature into the matter.
I doubt not Mr. Symmes took this step from commendable motives; but I think it my duty to apprize your Excellency, that a compliance with his recommendation could not fail to be attended with the most pernicious consequences. The true source of the discontents he speaks of is a dissimilarity in the terms of enlistment for the army. Those soldiers, who are truly engaged for the war, are dissatisfied at seeing others, many of whom have received equal, some greater emoluments, returning home, and having it in their power to obtain new bounties and new encouragements for their services, while they, held to their original engagements, are deprived of these privileges. They, therefore, frequently deny their being enlisted for the war, and make a variety of pretences to extricate themselves. Frequent applications have been made to me, and inquiries have taken place in consequence; but in almost every instance it has been found, that either the complaints have been entirely groundless, or too weakly supported to justify the discharge of the men. The cases most in their favor, which sometimes occur, are these. The original enlistments having been lost, officers resigning or dismissed from the service have given certificates of their being engaged for limited periods; but where these certificates are found to clash with the constant returns and muster-rolls of the regiment, which are certainly much more authentic criterions, they are disregarded. The circumstance mentioned by Mr. Symmes, of officers, on their resignation or discharge, turning over their men on oath to the succeeding officers, is founded on misinformation, for no such custom prevails in the army. The evil proceeds in a great measure from the reverse of this cause, the one I have mentioned above. It is probable enough, from the difficulty in ascertaining the fact in particular cases, that some men may be injured. But I verily believe the instances are rare, and that in general all possible justice is done to the men in this respect. I am at least conscious, that I have uniformly cultivated this spirit in the officers, and discountenanced the contrary.
I shall give your Excellency an example, which will serve to confirm the representation I have made. The Pensylvania soldiers, from the commencement, were almost universally engaged for the war. When they saw the Eastern levies, in the beginning of last campaign, who had received enormous bounties, (many a thousand pound & upwards,1 ) for a few months, they began to compare situations, to murmur, and to dispute their engagements. To remove these discontents, Congress, at my instance, were pleased to order a gratuity of 100 dollars to all men enlisted for the war, previous to the 23d of Jany., 1779. The intention of this gratuity was clearly explained. The men received it, and gave receipts expressive of that intention. They begin now to revive their former dissatisfaction, and many desertions have taken place in consequence; so unreasonable are they, or rather so fatal is the influence of that system of short enlistments, which in the first period of the war laid the foundation of all our subsequent misfortunes.
From this view of the subject I flatter myself, that you will readily perceive the inexpediency of the State interposing in the affair. Such countenance to the disposition now prevailing would soon make it epidemical. New pretenders would immediately start up in every line; new expectations, hopes, and reasonings would be excited, the discontent would become general, and our military system would be nearly unhinged. Instead of gratifying the ill humor of the men, by a mark of extraordinary attention, decisive measures to suppress it will, in my opinion, be most consistent with justice to the public and sound policy. I confine my remarks to the inexpediency of an interference by the legislature of this State. Your Excellency’s discernment will suggest other considerations, which are of so delicate a nature, that I shall decline particularizing them. I shall only add, that I have the fullest confidence the legislature will act with perfect wisdom and propriety upon the occasion, and that I have the honor to be with the highest respect, &c.
TO LIEUTENANT-COLONEL WILLETT.
Morristown, 22 February, 1780.
I have received your letter of the 18th.
Secresy in the business you have been requested to put in train is so essentially necessary that those who are willing to embark in it may rest assured that not even a whisper shall be heard from hence.
It is to be presumed that every circumspection and caution that the case will admit of will be used to prevent a discovery of any of the agents; but if notwithstanding the one at Secaucus should be suspected and prosecuted, I must in behalf of the public stand between him and the consequences of a prosecution. It may not be amiss, however, to observe by way of caution—that the great pursuit of those who heretofore have been employed in this business, is traffic, and this being carried on with avidity, the end for wch. they were engaged was defeated because suspicions on our part, and a desire of rendering themselves useful to the enemy to accomplish with more ease their own lucrative plans, give a turn to the business which operated much to our prejudice.
I do not know how easy it may be for the agent at Secaucus to obtain free access to the Intelligence at New York—but it is absolutely necessary he should—It is the hinge on which the whole turns and without it, nothing can be done to effect—Hence, is it not necessary to have a person on the No. River, at or near Bergentown, who can, at all times, have equal access to the City, and Secaucus unsuspected? Is it not necessary also to have some person between Second River and head Quarters?—These matters you will consider and determine on—I need not add that the fewer hands a business of this sort is in the better it will be executed, and less risk there is of a discovery.
Verbal accounts in passing through several hands, and some heads, which may not be very clear, are liable to such transmutation as serve to confound and perplex rather than inform—for this reason the Agent in New York should give all his intelligence in writing, which may be done fully and with security (even if the letters should fall into the hands of the enemy) in the manner I shall hereafter communicate. His Letters may be addressed to the Agent at Second River, or any other (more proper) person, if one can be thought of, but whether he will write in his own name, or under an assumed one, must be left to himself to determine; when he comes to understand the mode for communicating the intelligence.
The persons intermediate between him and me, (serving as mere vehicles of conveyance) will know nothing of the contents, consequently the avenues leading to a discovery of the person in New York (who should be shielded on all sides) will be much lessened and guarded.
The compensation for these services had better be fixed—beforehand—because loose agreements are seldom rewarded to the mutual satisfaction of both parties—I shall be glad to see you to-morrow morning that I may have some further conversation with you on this subject.—With esteem & regard, I am, &c.
CIRCULAR LETTER TO THE STATES.
You will have received I make no doubt a copy of an act of Congress of the 9th instant, ascertaining the quotas of the noncommissioned officers and privates to be furnished by the respective states for the ensuing campaign, and directing the men in the additional corps—the guards, artillery, and the horse, and the regimental artificers in the departments of the quarter-master-general and commissary general of military stores, as well as those of the battalions in the state levies, whose services do not expire before the last of September next, to be counted as part of the quotas of the states to which they respectively belong. The quota of the state of New Hampshire is fixed at 12151 and I have now the honor to inclose you a special return of the noncommissioned officers and privates in her three battalions, and of those belonging to her in Jackson’s and Hazen’s regiments, and Lamb’s regiment of artillery, designating in a particular manner, the proportion engaged for the war and the periods when and in what proportion the services of the rest will expire. You will be pleased to observe that by the act, men whose engagements expire before the last of September next, as I have already taken the liberty to mention, are not to be computed as part of the 1215; and therefore according to the return inclosed, the deficiency of men to be raised is 695. There are one or two corps besides those I have mentioned, of which I have not yet obtained returns; in which possibly there may be a few men belonging to the state. When I procure these, if this should be the case, I shall take the earliest occasion to communicate it and their number. I would observe before I conclude, that this return bears the fullest number of men under every description the state can have in her three battallions and the other corps which it comprehends, and they would most probably be found, if an actual inspection could take place, to fall a good deal short of the complement, as there is always a material difference between an army on paper and its real strength. A comparative view between the total of an army, as borne upon every general return and the column of present fit for duty, and the absentees that can be accounted for as certainly existing, demonstrates this beyond question. I have the honor to be, &c.
TO THE BOARD OF WAR.
I have received the enclosed proceedings of a General Court Martial held by order of the Board. As I am not informed of any provision having been made for vesting the power of appointing Courts Martial in the Board (which is too confined in many respects), I should not think myself at liberty to confirm the proceedings of the present Court, were there no objections to the manner of the proceedings themselves. But they are too summary and the evidence not fully enough stated, to justify an approbation of decisions which affect life.
No mention is made of the corps to which the prisoners belong. The corporal punishments too are irregular, exceeding the limits prescribed by our military code, which is in this instance also defective—and in the case of Capt. Parke,—he is found guilty of the additional crime of forgery, though the charge against him only relates to fraud.
I flatter myself I need not assure the Board, that the scruples now suggested do not proceed from the least disposition to bring their powers in any instance into question, which is the remotest of anything from my intention. But as the regular administration of justice as well in the military as civil line is of the essential importance, and as the regular constitution of Courts is a fundamental point towards it, the Board will be sensible it is my duty to be satisfied on this head before I give my concurrence in any trials where there is room to doubt. I shall therefore be obliged to them to give me the necessary information concerning their powers in this respect. Lest upon recollection it may be found that sufficient provision has not been made, I enclose an order for holding a new Court, that the offenders may not escape; and I could wish a hint may be given to the Gentleman acting as Judge advocate, to be more explicit and particular in designating the circumstances of the crime and of the evidence. I enclose the proceedings for the inspection of the Board. * * *
TO MAJOR-GENERAL LINCOLN, IN SOUTH CAROLINA.
Hd-Qrs.,Morris Town, 27 February, 1780.
My Dear Sir,
I have been successively favored with your letters of the 7th of November, 23d of December, and 8th of January last.
I am extremely happy to find, both for the public and for your sake, that your prospects were less gloomy when you wrote your two last letters, than when you wrote the first. I hope you have had the time necessary to complete your defences on the land side, and will be able effectually to baffle every attempt of the enemy in your quarter. Hitherto our affairs to the southward have certainly been more prosperous than could have been expected from circumstances, and, if the issue is not favorable, I am thoroughly persuaded it will not be your fault. The succession of tempestuous weather, which immediately followed the departure of the fleet that sailed from New York the latter end of December, we have been flattering ourselves, will at least retard and disconcert their southern operation. We have yet had no distinct account of them; it will be fortunate indeed if they have been driven off and dispersed.
In addition to the advices you were obliging enough to communicate, I have just seen official accounts, from the Governor of Havanna, of the success of the Spaniards in Florida.1 If the remaining posts fall, it will be a very important stroke, and in all probability the operations there will have a favorable influence upon our affairs in your quarter. Though perhaps it may not be probable, it is not impossible, the British General, if he has discretionary power, on hearing of the progress of the Spaniards in the Floridas, may suspend his original plan and turn his attention that way, and endeavor to defend their own territories rather than attempt conquests. Don Juan de Miralles, the Spanish agent, in a letter of the 18th communicating the foregoing intelligence, has the following paragraph:
“By royal order, I am very strongly charged to influence your Excellency to make the greatest diversion with the troops of the United States against those of the enemy in Georgia, to the effect of attracting their attention and disabling them from sending succors to Pensacola and Mobile, which the Governor of Louisiana is to attack, auxiliated with sea and land forces, which were prepared at Havannah with all things needful, and ready to sail when the station would permit.”
This I transmit you for your Government, satisfied that you will do every thing to effect the diversion desired, which the situation of your force and that of the enemy, combined with other circumstances, will permit. If they act offensively against the Carolinas, your whole attention will necessarily be engaged at home; but, if they should direct their force elsewhere, you may possibly have it in your power to pursue measures favorable to the operations of the Spaniards, and to the immediate interests of the United States.
You will since have been informed, that your information with respect to the Virginia troops being detached to the southward was good. Though they could be ill spared from this army, I thought we should have less to fear here, than you there, without them; and it appeared upon the whole advisable to throw the weight of Virginia into the defence of our southern extremity. I should have given you early notice of it, but I relied upon its being done by Congress. With the most affectionate regard, I am, dear Sir, &c.
TO DON JUAN DE MIRALLES.
* * * * * *
The want of any certain intelligence of the fleet, which sailed from New York, I should attribute to their having been disconcerted in their voyage by the tempestuous weather, which prevailed for some time after their departure. A variety of circumstances combining proved, that the intention of that embarkation was for the southern States. All my intelligence agreed in this point. The composition of the detachment; Governor Martin and several refugees from South and North Carolina having embarked in the fleet; the current of the English accounts, by which it appears that General Clinton was expected to be in South Carolina as early as November, in which he was probably prevented by Count d’Estaing’s operations in Georgia; these circumstances conspire to satisfy me, that the Carolinas were the objects. But, notwithstanding this, I think the precautions you are taking to put the Spanish dominions upon their guard are wise. It can have no ill consequence; and it is advisable to be provided against all contingencies. It would not be surprising if the British general, on hearing of the progress of the Spanish arms in the Floridas, should relinquish his first design, and go to the defence of their own territories.
I shall with the greatest pleasure comply with your request for giving you information of all the movements of the enemy, that come to my knowledge, which may in any manner interest the plans of your court; and I have written to General Lincoln agreeably to your intimation. Every motive will induce him to do whatever may be in his power to effect the diversion desired. If the enemy prosecute the plan, which I suppose to have been originally intended, he will necessarily find his whole attention employed at home on the defensive; but, if they direct their force to another quarter, I am persuaded he will make the best use of his to give them all possible annoyance and distraction. I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO LORD STIRLING.
Morris-town, 5 March, 1780.
I have read the orders, wch. you had framed for your division. They are certainly good; but in substance, except in a very few instances, are very explicitly enjoined by the regulations, and have been reiterated at different periods in the general orders, antecedent to the promulgation of the established “regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops,” and since in many particular ones by a reference to them; as your Lordship may perceive by recurring to the Orderly Book. At our last interview I slightly touched on this subject; but I shall embrace the present occasion to repeat more fully, that orders, unless they are followed by close attention to the performance of them, are of little avail. They are read by some, only heard of by others, and inaccurately attended to by all, whilst by a few they are totally disregarded; and this will for ever be the case, till the principal officers of the army begin the work of reformation by a close inspection into the police, the conduct of the officers, and men under their respective commands, and will endeavor to restore public œconomy and saving, than wch. nothing can better suit our present circumstances.
Example, whether it be good or bad, has a powerful influence, and the higher in Rank the officer is, who sets it, the more striking it is. Hence, and from all military experience, it has been found necessary for officers of every denomination to inspect narrowly the conduct of such parts of the army and corps, as are committed to their care. Without this, the regulations “for the Order and Discipline of the Troops,” established by the highest authority, and wch. are short, simple, and easy in the perform’e, and the General orders, will be little attended to; of course neglect of discipline, want of order, irregularity, waste, abuse, and embezzlement of public property, insensibly creep in. It is idle to suppose, under a descripn. like this, ye ground for which none I believe will deny, that a division, Brigade, or Regimental order, will have greater weight than those of Congress, or yr. Xc.; but, if the Persons issuing them would devote, as duty indispensably requires, a reasonable portion of their time to a personal and close inspection into the affairs of their respective commands; would frequently parade their Regiments, and compare the actual strength of them, their arms, accoutrements, and cloathes, with the returns, and have the deficiencies, (if any there be,) satisfactorily accounted for and provided, agreeably to the establishment of the army; would see that the regulations, the general orders, and their own, were carried into execution, where practicable, or report the causes of failure when they cannot; that all returns are made in due form, in proper time, and correctly, comparing one return with another, in order to prevent mistakes, correct abuses, and do justice to the public; and that, in visiting such parts of the line, and such particular corps, as are entrusted to their care, praise is bestowed on the deserving, reprehension, and, (where necessary,) punishment on the negligent; the good effect would be almost instantaneously felt. Frequent visits and inspection into matters of this kind would produce more real good in one month, than volumes of the best digested orders, that the wit of man can devise, wd. accomplish in seven years.
Were it not for the infinity of perplexing business, that is referred to and comes before me from every quarter; the multiplicity of Letters and papers I have to read and consider, many of which originate in the want of application and due attention being given by the Genl. officers to their respective commands, which brings a variety of applications to head-Qrs., that ought to be settled in the respective lines, I shd. devote much more of my time to the military parts of my duty. Unhappily, while necessity with-holds me from these attentions, a want of being sufficiently impressed with its importance, or some other cause, operates with equal force on others; and the few rides I am able to make to the Camp, and the hours wch. I can devote to the business of the line, never fail producing mortifying proofs of inattention and relaxation of discipline. The Country, in all my excursions, I find spread over with soldiers, notwithstanding the pointed orders which have been issued to restrain them, and to discountenance a practice, wch. has been found pregnant of desertion, robbery, and even murders, and totally repugnant to every principle of discipline and the Rules laid down for our governmt.
This, my Lord, is a free and friendly representn. of facts. Your letter drew it from me to you at this time; but I shall take occasion, so soon as the Genl. officers assemble, to require in explicit terms from them a conduct conformable to these sentimts. in future; for without it there is no possibility in the present perplexity of affairs, and the divided attention I am obliged to give to the numberless objects, wch. press upon me, to move the military machine with any degree of propriety without their assistance. With much esteem and regard, I am your Lordship’s, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Head Quarters,Morris Town,
I have been honored with your Excellency’s Letters of the 21st and 22d ulto.
I thank you for the communication you have been pleased to give me, with respect to the Fleet and embarkation at Havana, and I am in hopes we shall hear of the Spaniards having made a successful stroke against one or both of the places you have mentioned. As to the Enemy’s Fleet supposed to be bound to the southward, from the violent and constant storms that prevailed for several days after their departure from New York, I still think they must have been a good deal deranged and injured.
With respect to Capt Greene and the other hostages given at the Cedars, it cannot be in my power to do more than to endeavor to effect their exchange. This will be attemped, as it constantly has been; but it will rest with the enemy to consent to it or not, as they may think proper. Hitherto the latter has been their choice; and, if they persevere in it, the hostages I should suppose must be bound by their engagements. It seems to me, that this must be the case in every instance of parole, and in the present the engagements appear to be obligatory upon the officers in a very peculiar manner, as the indulgence of Parole was granted after the Treaty was set aside, for the performance of which they had been given as a security.1
I find myself under the necessity of transmitting to Your Excellency the copy of a letter I received Yesterday from the Quarter Master General, pointing out afresh the distresses of his department. As Your Excellency I presume, has received the original letter of the 16th ulto. to which he alludes—I have not inclosed a copy of it. I do not know what can or will be done to give relief; but from all I hear and all I see—things really appear to me in this department to be in a very alarming train—and to threaten the most interesting and fatal consequences. The inclosure No. 2 (a copy of a letter of the 24th ulto. from Colo. Biddle to the Quarter Master Genl.) will shew too how we are, and are like to be distressed on account of forage. In consequence of this representation, I prevailed on Colo. Biddle, as the most eligible plan that occurred to me, to wait on the Assembly at Trenton and to lay our difficulties and apprehensions on this head before them, but what they will or can do I cannot determine. I am very apprehensive that we shall experience great difficulties for want of proper supplies. * * *
It is very sincerely to be wished, that the States may furnish the several articles of supplies required of them. It will be very interesting for them to do it, and in such a manner, that the army may not either be reduced to a situation of want, or our operations be cramped or prohibited by an apprehension of it. I shall take the earliest occasion, after it is in my power, to inform the respective States of the places that appear to me the most proper for the supplies to be deposited at. It will be necessary to consult the Quartr. Master-Genl. and Commissary-Genl. upon the subject, the latter of whom is now absent from camp on business at the Eastward.1 I have the honor to be, &c.2
TO MAJOR-GENERAL ST. CLAIR, AND LIEUTENANT-COLONELS EDWARD CARRINGTON AND ALEXANDER HAMILTON.
The powers herewith authorize you to proceed to Amboy on Thursday the 9th instant, to meet commissioners on the part of the enemy, for the purpose of settling a General Cartel. You will perceive what has been already done in this business by the papers accompanying this. * * * The only instructions I have to give you are these, that you transact nothing under your commission but upon principles of perfect equality and on a national ground. If the enemy will not treat with you on this footing, you will put an end to the negotiation. But after your official business is over, I wish you in private conversation to enter into a discussion of the proposals, so as to remove any difficulties they contain, and prepare the way for some future particular agreement, which may give relief to our officers and men in captivity.
If you enter into a general Cartel, you must of necessity include the southern prisoners; but, if you are obliged to confine yourselves to what I now recommend, you will avoid including them. The proposals appear to me generally liberal, though in some respects exceptionable. The tariff, however, is moderate enough. Having entire confidence in your judgment and discretion, I think it unnecessary to enter into a detail of the exceptionable parts; persuaded that they will readily occur to you, and that you will take proper steps to have them amended. The settlement of accounts is a point of importance and difficulty. As the matter now stands, I am unable to give you any explicit directions on the subject. If you are like to enter into a general Cartel, you will immediately advise me, and I will obtain further instructions from Congress. If this is not the case, you will hardly be able to draw any engagements from the enemy on this head, and you will perceive this point is not to be made a preliminary nor ultimatum. You will do the best you can, endeavoring by all means to engage the British Commissioners to advance a sufficient sum of money to pay the debts of our officers for board and the like, and enable them to leave their captivity. You will communicate to me from time to time any matters you may desire my advice upon, and it shall chearfully be afforded. I sincerely wish you a successful and honorable issue to your commission. Given at Head Quarters, Morristown, 8 March, 1780.
TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE.
My Dear Marqs.,
Your polite and obliging letter of the 10th of Octr., from Havre came to my hands since the beging. of this month. It filled me with a pleasure intermixed with pain. To hear that you were well, to find you breathing the same affectionate sentiments that ever have most conspicuously marked your conduct towards me, and that you continued to deliver them with unabated attachmt., contributes greatly to my happiness. On the other hand, to hear that not one of the many letters, which I have written to you since you left this continent, had arrived safe, was not only surprizing but mortifying, notwithstanding you have the goodness to acct. for it on its true principles. With much truth I can assure you, that besides the letter which ought to have been delivered to you at Boston (containing such testimonials of your merit and services as I thought a tribute justly due from me) and which was dispatched soon after it returned to me, I wrote you two or three times between that and the opening of the campaign in June.—In the month of July I wrote you a long letter from New Windsor. About the first of Septr. I addressed you again—the last of the same month, after I had been favored with yr. affectionate letter by the Chevr. de la Luzerne, I wrote you a very long letter to go by Monsr. Gerard; and sometime in October I again wrote to you by Monsr. de la Colombe. Copys of all which, to the best of my recollection, have been duly forwarded; it is a little unfortunate then that out of the whole I should not be able to get one of them safe.
I have been thus particular, my dear friend, that in case there should be the least suspicion of my want of friendship or want of attention it may be totally removed; as it is my earnest wish to convince you, by every testimony that an affectionate regard can dictate, of my sincere attachment to your person and fortunes.
For ye copy of your letter to Congress, and the several pieces of intelligence, which you did me the favor to transmit, you will be pleased to accept my warmest thanks. Our eyes are now turned to Europe. The manœuvres of the field, long ere this, must have yielded to those of the cabinet; and I hope G. Britn. will be as much foiled in her management of the latter, as she has been in the former. Her having formed no alliances, nor been unable to contract for more foreign troops, exhibits interesting proofs of it, which are not a little enlivened by the dispositions of the People of Ireland, who feel the importance of a critical moment to shake off those badges of slavery, which they have so long worn.
Since my last, a Detachment, (if it can be called a detachment where the commander-in-chief of an army is,) consisting of the grenrs. and light Infantry, and some other chosen corps, amounting in the whole to between five and 6 thousand men, embarkd. for Georgia. The 26th of December they left Sandy hook, under convoy of 5 ships of the line, and several frigates, commanded by Admiral Arbuthnot. Generl. Clinton and Lord Cornwallis went with them. We have accts., that part of this fleet had arrived at Savannah (in Georgia), that it suffered very considerably in the stormy weather that followed their sailing, in which there is good reason to believe that most of their Horses were thrown overboard, and that some of their ships foundered. Indeed, we are not without reports, that many of the Transports were driven to the West Indies. How far these accts. are to be credited I shall not undertake to determine; but certain it is, the fleet has been much dispersed, and their operations considerably delayed, if not deranged, by the tempestuous weather they had to encounter during the whole month of January. The enemy, that they might bend their operations more forcibly to the southward, and at the same time leave New York and its dependencies sufficiently garrisoned, have withdrawn their troops from Rhode Island.
As the enemy’s intentions of operating in the southern States began to unfold, I began to detach troops to their aid; accordingly in Novr. the North Carolina Brigade took up its march for Charleston, and was followed abt. the middle of Decr. by the Troops of Virginia. But the extreme cold, the deep snows, and other impediments, have retarded the progress of their march very considerable. The oldest people now living in this country do not remember so hard a winter as the one we are now emerging from. In a word, the severity of the frost exceeded any thing of the kind that had ever been experienced in this climate before. I beg leave to make a tender of my best respects to Madm. de Lafayette, and to offer fresh assurances of being with sentiments of great and sincere friendship, my dear Marquis, your most obedient, &c.1
TO BARON DE KALB.
I have recd. your favr. of yesterday, enclosing a letter for General Greene, which I shall not deliver to him, as I know he has not at present the means of building the boats you mention. I would therefore recommend to you to put out the best of those, which you may find in the several Rivers, for the purpose of Guard-Boats. Upon referring to and reconsidering your former letter upon this subject, I am of opinion that the stations, which you then pointed out, will be dangerous, so far as they respect the distance between Elizabeth town and Amboy; the Sound there being so exceedingly narrow, that a Boat pushed suddenly from the opposite shore in the night would more than probably take ours. Besides, I do not think we are to look for a descent in any considerable force from that quarter. The enemy has generally hitherto embarked either at Long Island, or upon the further side of Staten Island, and have come thro. the Kilns and across New Ark Bay, thereby avoiding all discovery from this shore, which they would be subject to anywhere between Elizabeth town and Amboy. New Ark Bay is, therefore, in my opinion, the proper and the safe place for your Guard-Boats to ply. It is of considerable extent, and a fleet of Boats may be discovered either by their working or by sight some time before their approach.
We have found on repeated experiments, that the inhabitants will not remove their stock untill the moment of danger; indeed at this season they have no places to send them where they can be supplied with food. I would therefore have you give as general information as in your power, that an incursion of the enemy may be expected, and recommend to the people to drive back their stock upon the first communication of an alarm. I do not think it probable, that the Enemy will put their designs, if they have any, into execution while our Commissioners are sitting at Amboy. I mention this as a matter of opinion only, and would not wish you to relax your Vigilance on that account. You will, no doubt, have the signals in the utmost state of preparation, and keep a small party stationed with the Alarm-Guns below Chatham. I am, &c.
TO LORD STIRLING.
Head Quarters,Morris Town,
Enclosed you will find an extract of a letter, which I recd. yesterday from Governor Livingston, with twelve Copies of the Act for recruiting the number of Men therein mentioned. You will be pleased, in consequence of the Governor’s request, immediately to order as many officers as can possibly be spared from the Jersey line to go upon the recruiting service; selecting such as are best acquainted with that duty, and as are supposed to have influence in the respective Counties. The Words of the Act are confined to “able-bodied and effective men”; but I would wish your Lordship to draw a set of additional instructions for the recruiting officers, directing them not to enlist under the above description any deserters from the enemy; and letting them know in very explicit terms that the Recruits will, upon their arrival at Camp, be inspected by the Inspector-General, or one of the sub-Inspectors, and, if they shall be found ruptured, or any other ways unsound, too old or too young for the service, or in any manner unqualified for soldiers, that they shall be accountable, notwithstanding they may have been passed by the County Muster-Masters appointed by the act. I think this caution necessary, because it would not be a difficult matter to impose an improper man upon a gentleman in the Country not well acquainted with, or not very attentive to military matters.
You will be pleased further to direct the officers to send forward their Recruits to Camp, in squads of five or six as they obtain them; for which purpose each officer should take with him a non-Commissioned officer, and one or two trusty men, to perform that duty. Well dressed and well looking men should be selected. Your Lordship will observe by the Act, that a Bounty of one thousand dollars is to be paid to each Recruit enlisting for the War, exclusive of Continental Bounty and Emoluments; but, that there may be no misconception or deception by the officers, or on the part of the men, you are clearly to express in the additional recruiting instructions, that the Continental Bounties and Emoluments only extend to Clothing, Land, and such other Benefits as may be hereafter allowed to soldiers serving during the war; in short, that one thousand dollars is the whole bounty in money which they are to expect. And the officer is to be informed, that the two hundred dollars’ bounty for each recruit is to include, and to be considered by him as a compensation for his trouble and expenses.1
Officers of Militia are under the Act allowed to recruit Men; and it is therefore necessary that they should be apprized of the Bounty in Money, which is to be allowed. The best way, in my opinion, for communicating this is, for the Continental officers upon their arrival in the several Counties to show their instructions to the County Muster-Masters and County pay Masters, and request them to communicate the substance of them to the officers of the militia. I shall be obliged by your Lordship’s favoring me with a Copy of the instructions, which you deliver to the officers, that I may file them with my papers. I am, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.1
I beg leave to inform Congress that from the importance of the subject and the difficulties we have experienced in our provision and forage supplies, I have been induced in the course of a few days past, with the assistance of the Quarter Master General and the Commissary Generals of provision and forage, to make an estimate of the quantity of each of these articles, which would be necessary under our circumstances for thirty thousand men for twelve months. From a view of our past expenditures and supposing our means of transportation will be nearly the same they have been, it appears that two hundred thousand barrels of flour and forty millions of pounds of meat would be requisite to be provided, and a much greater quantity of hay and grain forage, as will be seen by the enclosed estimate, than Congress have been pleased to require of the States, by their resolutions of the 25th of last month. I should have deemed a communication essential in the case of any specific requisition, which should have seemed too short in the supplies required, lest the States after providing for the quantities called for, might have permitted the remaining surplus of provisions to be exported, and from thence placed the subsistence of the army on too precarious a footing. In the present one, however, the communication appears the more essential as, besides the inconvenience suggested and admitting it should never happen, the act makes no certain provision for obtaining any supplies beyond those required by it, although they should prove deficient. With all deference I would take the liberty to observe, that it appears to me, we cannot be too secure and guarded with respect to our supplies of provision and forage, as a failure in either would involve the most distressing consequences and therefore that our requisitions should be full and ample in the first instance; and also, even where this is the case, that there should reside a power, either in the Commissary General, or in one or more persons appointed by Congress, or in the superintending agents to be nominated by the States, to provide for contingencies. Upon the present occasion this power seems to me indispensable, as the supplies requested by the resolution of the 25th of February, appear to be so materially deficient, and it may be absolutely necessary in many cases, both for the sake of public economy and because the articles of supply may not be procurable elsewhere, or at least not in due time, or without great difficulty, to obtain large quantities of provision and forage in a State, after it has actually furnished the quota required of it in the general assessment. If this should not be allowable, the public service may and will certainly suffer; and yet under the present arrangement of the business in this State, which, as I am informed, has undertaken to furnish its quota agreeable to the requisition, there is no provision which authorizes its own superintendent or contractors to go farther than this, while the law prohibits the staff in the Continental line from purchasing any article of provision or forage on public account, under a severe penalty; which system may be adopted by others. With respect to the article of hay for instance, the quantity heretofore purchased in this State, and which was essential for the army, has been more than double what is apportioned on it by the act of the 25th of February; and should circumstances make as great an expenditure material in future, and the State should be capable of affording a supply, the public interest would certainly require that it should be procured, in preference to drawing it from another, supposing it could be done. The prosperity, and indeed the necessity, of the measure, holds equally with respect to other articles and to every State. I do not mean to convey an idea that it is not necessary in our present circumstances to make specific requisitions of supplies in these instances, of the States; or that a system could be, or should be formed on any principle of apportionment, to oblige every one to furnish in this way more than its proportion; but only, that there should be a power somewhere, through which the public may avail themselves of the resources occasionally, of which each State may be capable. And indeed, as it may be unnecessary and impossible in many instances to use the supplies apportioned on particular States, from the local operations of the army, it seems to me that there should be occasional sales of the articles laid up, particularly of forage, whenever it shall appear from the circumstances of the war that they will not be wanted. * * *1
TO JOHN MATHEWS, IN CONGRESS.
Head-Quarters, 30 March, 1780.
It would seem pretty evident from the enemy’s inactivity, from which we derive so many advantages, that some very considerable derangement has happened in their affairs. Whether this arises from the want of horses, the loss of military stores, or an insufficiency in the article of small craft for the transportation of troops, or of proper ships to attempt the harbor, the result is the same to us; and I would flatter myself in the same hopes, that you have expressed on this head. You speak of the arrival of the Roebuck and transports from the southward at New York, but I have not had any information of this kind, although my inquiries have been particular. The Russell from Savannah, and some provision vessels from Cork, have got in lately, but there are no other entries of consideration, which have taken place within these few weeks.
My intelligence for some time past has looked towards a considerable move on the part of the enemy; that boats have been collecting, and a number of boatmen engaged for a particular service. But the preparations were of such a nature, as would not admit of any decisive conclusions. Since this general intelligence, I have received some of a more pointed nature, that indicates another embarkation of about two thousand five hundred men for some distant part; and, under the circumstances of the enemy to the southward, it is most probably for that quarter. I expect to have the particulars in a day or two, when I shall have the honor of writing fully to Congress on the subject. With great regard, I am, Sir, etc.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
I have the honor to inclose the report of the proceedings of the commissioners appointed to meet at Amboy, the 9th instant, for the purpose of settling a general cartel, by which Congress will perceive that the present attempt has been as unsuccessful as all the former, and from the same cause.
In January I was honored with a letter from the Minister of France, informing me of his having received advice from Europe, that the Court of London, on account of the difficulty they found in procuring men, had instructed their commander in chief here, to treat with us on a national footing, rather than fail to obtain a reinforcement to their army by the release of their prisoners in our hands. He added, that he had communicated this intelligence to Congress, and that Congress had requested him to transmit it to me, as a matter which ought materially to influence the measures we were about to take on the subject of an exchange.
Though I was strongly persuaded beforehand, that there was a mistake in his Excellency’s information, and that the advantages to be reaped by the enemy from the proposed Exchange, would not be a sufficient inducement to a step of the nature it imported, which I took the liberty to signify to him, yet I thought it my duty to make the experiment, as well from motives of respect to the communication, as from the possibility of its being well founded. I therefore directed our commissioners to take every method to ascertain the Enemy’s views on this head, and, if the British commissioners did not come with national powers, to decline doing anything with them in an official capacity; but after satisfying themselves that nothing was to be effected on a larger scale, they were instructed to enter into private conversation on the terms of a particular exchange. Their letter No. 2. will shew what was done in consequence. Congress will perceive that their proposal was not accepted by the gentlemen on the other side, who insisted on the exchange being at all events extended to one half of the second division of the convention troops. This was a departure from the plan concerted between General Phillips and Cols. Magaw, Matthews, &c.
If Congress think that humanity requires or policy permits us to accede to the enemy’s ultimatum, I shall be happy to execute their orders; but it is a point of so much delicacy and importance, that I cannot forbear earnestly requesting I may be excused from deciding in it. On one hand, the acquisition of so many men will be of great moment to the enemy, if they meet with success to the southward; on the other, I see not how we shall be able to maintain our officers in captivity, and the expence is no trifling consideration. I think it necessary to observe, that if the enemy’s proposal should be accepted, it may be June before the prisoners are delivered—but perhaps it will be judged advisable to delay a determination ’till the probable issue of southern affairs is a little unfolded. I have the honor, &c.1
TO PHILIP SCHUYLER, IN CONGRESS.
Head-Quarters, 31 March, 1780.
My Dear Sir,
I was about to fulfil the promise made to you in my last, of writing fully on the subject of your letter and other matters, when your obliging favor of the 22d came to hand. The hint contained in it was too seasonable and striking for me not to derive a lesson of use from it. I shall, therefore, as there is danger attending written communications of private sentimts., and my letters to the body of which you are a member will convey every occurrence and information of a public nature within my sphere of action, content myself with acknowledging and thanking you for the letters you may do me the favor to write.
I am much indebted to you for your communications from the southward. I feel many anxious moments on account of the Carolinas, which are increased by the daily diminution of our force in this quarter, the little prospect of getting it augmented in time to answer any valuable purpose, and other obvious embarrassments. We are now beginning to experience the fatal consequences of the policy, which delayed calling upon the States for their quotas of men to a period when they ought to have been joined, that there might have been time for arranging and preparing them for the duties of the field. What to do for the southern States, without involving consequences equally alarming in this quarter, I know not. The enemy are certainly preparing for another embarkation (from present appearances about two thousand five hundred men); but, as I expect a more particular account of this matter by to-morrow, I shall defer writing to Congress till then. With the most sincere regard and affection, I am, &c.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Head-Qrs.,Morristown, 2 April, 1780.
Since I had the Honor of addressing Your Excellency on the 28th ulto. I have received intelligence, which seems to place it beyond doubt, that the Enemy are about to make a further embarkation of Troops from New York, and the common opinion is, that they are going to reinforce Sir Henry Clinton. Lord Rawdon’s brigade, said to consist of his own Regiment and of Brown’s, Fanning’s, and another corps, Two Hessian Regiments, the 42d and another British, estimated in the whole at 2,500 rank and file, are the Troops that will, according to report, make the embarkation. This intelligence, the probability there seems to be that the Enemy will endeavor to push their operations with vigor at the southward, the weak state of our force there, and unhappily in this quarter also, have laid me under great embarrassments with respect to the conduct that ought to be pursued. In considering the point, a choice of difficulties occurs to our view. The southern States, it is to be apprehended, may require much support; and, while we attempt to afford it from hence, we run a serious risk in this quarter, from the facility with which the Enemy, by the help of their fleet, can unite their force at any point where they find us weak. Congress will the better conceive in how delicate a situation we stand, when I inform them, that our whole operating force present on this and on the other side of the North River amounts to only Ten Thousand four Hundred rank and file, of which about Two Thousand Eight Hundred will have completed their term of service by the last of May (Two thirds by the end of this month), while the Enemy’s regular force at New York and its dependencies must amount, upon a moderate calculation, to about Eleven Thousand rank and file. I enclose Congress a list of the corps at New York, after the Detachment which sailed with Sir Henry Clinton, taken from Gaine’s Register for the present year. Our situation too is the more critical, from the impossibility of concentrating our force, as well for want of the means of taking the Field, as from the early period of the season.
The want also of a magazine of flour and salt provision at West Point renders it the more necessary, that our covering force should be respectable; as, from this unlucky circumstance, which could not be prevented, the post in case of investiture might be exposed to great risk, at least if its relief depended much on a force to be collected. * * * But, notwithstanding these objections, perhaps something should be hazarded here, relying on the internal strength of the Country, for the purpose of giving further succor to the southern States, where there is not the same dependence. I shall therefore put the Maryland line, and the Delaware Regiment, which acts with it, under marching orders immediately, and have directed provision to be made for transporting them as far as Philadelphia; and propose that their march, if practicable, should commence on the sailing of the Detachment from New York. But before the measure is carried into execution, I shall be happy to know the sense of Congress on its expediency. The consequences may be very important either way, and I wish to have their instructions for my government.
In case the detachment is to march, its ulterior proceedings and rout from Philadelphia will depend on the orders, which Congress, or the Honorable the Board of War by their directions, shall give; for it is impossible for me, under our circumstances, to give directions upon this occasion. The Qr. Master and Commissary General are both in Philadelphia, and will exert themselves, I am persuaded, to carry into execution any plan for the transportation and accommodation of the troops, that may be judged most eligible, as far as it may be in their power. Baron de Kalb, who is now at the head of the Maryland division, will command the Detachment in case it proceeds, and will set out to-morrow or the next day for Philadelphia, to assist and expedite the arrangements for its future movements. If the Troops could embark without delay at the Head of Elk, and arrive safe in James River, it would not only be a great ease to them, but it would expedite their arrival at the Southward, and prevent many desertions, which will probably happen if they march thro’ their State. But how far this mode of proceeding may be eligible, I will not pretend to determine; as the enemy, in case they should be advised of it, which every precaution of secrecy would be necessary to prevent, might by sending armed Vessels into the Bay attempt to intercept them in their passage.
Major Lee’s corps is under marching orders for the southward, of which I have advised the Honorable the Board of War on the 30th; and the Commanding officer is directed to proceed with it, as soon as he adjusts with them the proper arrangements.1 I enclose Your Excellency an Extract from Robertson’s New York American Gazette of the 28th of last month. The intelligence, if true, is very important and interesting. I have the honor to be, &c.2
TO BARON STEUBEN.
Morristown, 2 April, 1780.
My Dear Baron,
I duly received your letter of the 15th of March, which hurry of business has prevented my acknowledging sooner. Last night brought me your favor of the 2d.
The propositions made by you to Congress for the arrangement of the army this campaign appear to me, upon the whole, best adapted to our circumstances, and especially since so much of the season has elapsed without entering upon it. I am glad the proposed incorporation has been suspended. I doubt, however, the practicability at this time of augmenting the cavalry or recruiting the additionals, from the circumstance you mentioned, the extreme distress of the treasury, which seems to be totally exhausted, and without sufficient resources for the current demands of the service. The present crisis is indeed perplexing beyond description, and it is infinitely difficult to devise a remedy.
When I approve your plan for the additional regiments, it is with one condition; that Congress can find means to provide for the officers, so as to put them upon an equal footing with the other parts of the army. If this cannot be done, they cannot continue in the service. I have incessant applications to this effect, and have just written again to Congress on the subject. If the situation of the officers cannot be made more tolerable, it will be preferable to dissolve those corps, incorporate the men with the State lines, and let the officers retire to be entitled to pay, subsistence, and the emoluments decreed at the end of the war. This will be a very bad expedient, if it can be avoided; but it is better than to leave the officers in such a state, that they must be miserable while they stay in the army; obliged in a little time, the greatest part of them, to quit, while the corps for want of care will rapidly decline, and a number of good men be lost to the service.1
Your anxiety on the score of southern affairs cannot exceed mine. The measure of collecting the whole force for the defence of Charlestown ought no doubt to have been well considered before it was determined. It is putting much to the hazard; but at this distance we can form a very imperfect judgment of its propriety or necessity. I have the greatest reliance on General Lincoln’s prudence; but I cannot forbear dreading the event. Ill as we can afford a diminution of our force here, and notwithstanding the danger we run from the facility with which the enemy can concenter their force at our weak points, besides other inconveniences, I have recommended it to Congress to detach the Maryland division to reinforce the southern States. Though this detachment cannot in all probability arrive in season to be of any service to Charles Town, it may assist to arrest the progress of the enemy and save the Carolinas.1
My sentiments concerning public affairs correspond too much with yours. The prospect, my Dear Baron, is gloomy, and the storm threatens. Not to have the anxieties you express, at the present juncture, would be not to feel that zeal and interest in our cause, by which all your whole conduct shows you to be actuated. But I hope we shall extricate ourselves, and bring every thing to a prosperous issue. I have been so inured to difficulties in the course of this contest, that I have learned to look upon them with more tranquillity than formerly. Those, which now present themselves, no doubt require vigorous exertions to overcome them, and I am [far] from despairing of doing it. Though I shall be happy to have the honor of seeing the Minister in Camp, as soon as it may be convenient to him, your reasons for persuading him to defer his journey awhile were good. I wish it were in my power to save him the trouble of the journey by paying him my respects in Philadelphia; but our present military situation, joined to other reasons, will not permit me to have that honor. I am very sensible, my Dear Baron, to the obliging assurances of your regard, and I entreat you to believe there is a perfect reciprocity of sentiments, and that I am, with great consideration and the truest esteem, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
I have frequently had the honor to address Congress on the subject of those Corps, which are unconnected with the lines of particular States. Satisfied of the numerous perplexities under which they labor, it is with pain and reluctance I trouble them with repeated representations of the same nature; but in the present case it is so indispensable something should be done, that I cannot forbear the repetition, however disagreeable. The situation of the officers of these Corps is absolutely insupportable. Unless something effectual can be done to make it more comfortable, it is impossible they can remain in the service. The resolution of Congress for making them part of the State Quotas has rather been a disadvantage than an advantage. It has had a very partial operation, and the benefit resulting to a few has only served to establish a contrast that embitters the sufferings of the rest. Nothing can be conceived more chagrining, than for an officer to see himself destitute of every necessary, while another, not only in the service of the same Government, engaged in defending the same cause, but even in the same regiment, and sometimes standing by his side in the same company, is decently if not amply provided. Enthusiasm alone can support him in a moment’s perseverance; but even this principle must give way to a necessity so continued and so hopeless. Dayly applications are made to me to know whether there is a prospect of relief, always accompanied with a declaration, that it is impossible any longer to endure the extremities to which they are driven.
I entreat the attention of Congress to this matter. If there is no way to make provision for the officers, it would be better to dissolve the corps, incorporate the men with the regiments belonging to the State lines, and let the officers retire with pay and subsistence, and such other emoluments as may be enjoyed by others after the war. In their present state, they are actually suffering every inconvenience, in fruitless expectations of a remedy that will perhaps never come; those who have less resource otherwise, less zeal, or less fortitude, are resigning from day to day. A relaxation of care in the interior of the regiments must be a necessary consequence; and many valuable men will be gradually lost to the service, who might be saved. It is much better, therefore, that the expedient suggested should be adopted, than that things should remain as now circumstanced. But if it were possible to obviate the necessity for it, it were much to be wished, as it would preserve many of our best officers to the army, who would with infinite reluctance quit the field, while the defence of their country called for their services.
Before I conclude, I think it my duty to touch upon the general situation of the army at this juncture. It is absolutely necessary Congress should be apprized of it, for it is difficult to forsee what may be the result; and, as very serious consequences are to be apprehended, I should not be justified in preserving silence. There never has been a stage of the war, in which the dissatisfaction has been so general or alarming. It has lately, in particular instances, worn features of a very dangerous complexion. A variety of causes has contributed to this; The diversity in the terms of enlistments, the inequality of the rewards given for entering into the service, but still more the disparity in the provision made by the several States for their respective Troops. The system of State supplies, however in the commencement dictated by necessity, has proved in its operation pernicious beyond description. An army must be raised, paid, subsisted, and regulated upon an equal and uniform principle, or the confusions and discontents are endless. Little less than the dissolution of the army would have been long since the consequence of a different plan, had it not been for a spirit of patriotic virtue, both in officers and men, of which there are few examples, seconded by the unremitting pains that have been taken to compose and reconcile them to their situation. But these will not be able to hold out much longer against the influence of causes constantly operating, and every day with some new aggravation.
Some States, from their internal ability and local advantages, furnish their Troops pretty amply, not only with cloathing, but with many little comforts and conveniences; others supply them with some necessaries, but on a more contracted scale; while others have it in their power to do little or nothing at all. The officers and men in the routine of duty mix dayly and compare circumstances. Those, who fare worse than others, of course are dissatisfied, and have their resentment excited, not only against their own State, but against the Confederacy. They become disgusted with a service that makes such injurious distinctions. No arguments can persuade an officer it is justice he should be obliged to pay £—a yard for cloth, and other things in proportion, while another is furnished at part of the price. The officers resign, and we have now scarcely a sufficient number left to take care even of the fragments of corps which remain. The men have not this resource. They murmur, brood over their discontents, and have lately shown a disposition to enter into seditious combinations.
A new scene is now opening, which I fear will be productive of more troublesome effects, than any thing that has hitherto taken place. Some of the States have adopted the measure of making good the depreciation of the money to their Troops, as well for the past as for the future. If this does not become general, it is so striking a point, that the consequences must be unspeakably mischievous. I enter not into the propriety of this measure in the view of finance, but confine myself to its operation upon the army. Neither do I mean to insinuate, that the liberality of particular States has been carried to a blamable length. The evil I mean to point out is the inequality of the different provisions, and this is inherent in the present system. It were devoutly to be wished, a plan could be devised by which every thing relating to the army could be conducted on a general principle, under the direction of Congress. This alone can give harmony and consistence to our military establishment, and I am persuaded it will be infinitely conducive to public economy. I hope I shall not be thought to have exceeded my duty in the unreserved manner in which I have exhibited our situation.1 Congress, I flatter myself, will have the goodness to believe, that I have no other motives than a zeal for the public service, a desire to give them every necessary information, and an apprehension for the consequences of the evils we now experience. I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL LINCOLN.
My Dear Sir,
I have successively received your several letters of the 23d and 28th of January, 12th, 14th and 23d of February, almost all of which were come to hand when I wrote you by General Duportail, but by accident were not acknowledged. As far as it is possible for me, at this distance and with a very inconsiderable knowledge of the country, to judge, your reasonings on the best plan for an expedition against Augustine appear to me well founded. But unfortunately for us, from every present aspect, we shall find ample employment in defending ourselves, without meditating conquests. Your latter letter announces the arrival and progress of Sir Henry Clinton to Stono. It is of the greatest importance that he met with the disasters which attended his voyage, though they were much smaller than was expected. This, no doubt, is the cause of his delay, and, I sincerely hope, will give you time to receive the necessary succors, and put your self in an effectual posture of defence.
In my letter by General Duportail I informed you that my advices from New York indicated a further embarkation, supposed to be destined for the southward. This has actually taken place, and has been for some time on the point of sailing, though it is not yet ascertained that they have sailed. I have had several accounts of the corps composing the detachment, but as they materially differ from each other, I cannot rely sufficiently upon either to transmit it. From every information, the total number will be from 2,000 to 2,500 men, commanded by Lord Rawdon as brigadier. I do not learn that there are any cavalry or draught-horses, more than about fifteen dragoons, attached to Simcoe’s corps. If this embarkation should be designed as a reinforcement to General Clinton, and he should suspend his operations ’till its arrival, as is probable, so much time will be exhausted that he will be thrown into the hot season, a circumstance not a little unfavorable to his success. You will easily conceive the degree of our solicitude here for the fate of Charles Town and its garrison. My apprehensions, after all, are principally for the harbor. If this is secured, the operations against you must become critical and arduous. But whatever may be the event, of this we are assured, that no exertion, prudence, or perseverance on your part will be wanting to defeat the attempts of the enemy. May the issue be equally conducive to your personal glory and to the advantage of these States.
In consequence of the detachment the enemy are now making, it has been determined to march the Maryland division of about 2000 men to your assistance; but our situation here will not permit it to move before it is certain the enemy’s detachment has sailed.1 Baron de Kalb will command this division. This reinforcement in all probability will be too late to have any influence upon the fate of Charles Town; but, if that should fall, it may serve to check the progress of the British troops, and prevent their geting entire possession of the State. If they succeed against Charles Town, there is much reason to believe the southern States will become the principal theatre of the war.
I enclose you sundry resolutions of Congress of the 25th of February for raising specific supplies of provisions and forage on the different States, in which you will find the quantities apportioned on North and South Carolina. Congress have left it with me to determine the places of deposit; but my remoteness from those two States, and the imperfect knowledge I have of their position and circumstances, disqualify me from extending my arrangements to them. These will be much better made by you, and I must request you will as speedily as possible carry into execution that part of the resolutions, which depends on me. I have written to the governors of the two States, referring them to you for information on this head, which you will no doubt give without loss of time. I have written to the governor of Virginia, pressing the supplying of the troops of that State with cloathing, agreeable to your request. I am very truly and affectionately, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
I have duly received your Excellency’s despatches of the 6th and 9th of April. The Maryland division marched this morning, with the first regiment of Artillery and eight field-pieces, besides those attached to the Brigades, which will be useful at any rate, and essential, if an accident should happen to Charles Town. The want of waggons has unavoidably retarded the march of the troops till this time.
I have attentively considered the application from the State of Massachusetts, on the subject of an expedition against the Enemy at Penobscot. It appears to be of great importance in several points of view, that they should be dislodged; but, circumstanced as we are, I do not see how the attempt can be made with any prospect of success. A naval coöperation seems to be absolutely necessary, and for this we do not possess the means.
We have no fleet, and the Enemy have a respectable one on the coast, which they can at any time employ to frustrate our measures. From all accounts, the Posts at Penobscot are strongly situated, and susceptible of being made more formidable by additional fortifications, which it is to be presumed has not been neglected. To attempt a coup de main with a tolerable certainty of success would require a considerable force, and of other troops than militia, which can by no means be spared. To operate by a siege, with cannon and the necessary apparatus, would be an affair of length. The operating force, I am informed, must depend on supplies of every kind by water. This communication would be liable to be interrupted at the pleasure of the Enemy, and the situation of the troops would be alarmingly precarious. A reinforcement might at any time be sent from Halifax and New York to raise the siege; our troops would perhaps themselves escape with difficulty, no doubt with disgrace and with the loss of their cannon and stores. But, were there no other obstacles in the way, the total deficiency of money and magazines seems alone to be insurmountable. With respect to both of these we seem to be arrived at so desperate an extremity, that every arrangement and operation is at a stand, and, without speedy relief, inevitable ruin must ensue.
These objections to the expedition obviously present themselves in the present posture of our affairs, though I confess I have not a sufficient knowledge of the Country in question to form a very accurate judgment. Could we obtain an effectual naval co-operation, this and many other things might be undertaken, which without it are impracticable. Indeed, considering the position of these States, a Fleet is essential to our system of defence; and that we have not hitherto suffered more than we have for want of it, is to be ascribed to the feeble and injudicious manner in which the enemy have applied the means in their hands during this War. The plan they are now preparing, of attacking points remote from each other, will make us feel the disadvantage in a striking manner, and may be fatal, if our allies are not able to afford us naval succor. In all respects it is more necessary now than it ever was. * * *
I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO COLONEL JOHN LAURENS, AT CHARLESTON.
Morristown, 26 April, 1780.
My Dear Laurens,
I sincerely lament that your prospects are not better than they are. The impracticability of defending the bar, I fear, amounts to the loss of the town and garrison. At this distance it is difficult to judge for you, and I have the greatest confidence in General Lincoln’s prudence; but it really appears to me, that the propriety of attempting to defend the town depended on the probability of defending the bar, and that, when this ceased, the attempt ought to have been relinquished. In this, however, I suspend a definitive judgment, and wish you to consider what I say as confidential. Since your last to me, I have received a letter from General Lincoln, in which he informs me, that the enemy had got a sixty-four-gun ship with a number of other vessels over the bar, and that it had been determined to abandon the project of disputing the passage by Sullivan’s Island, and to draw up the frigates to the town and take out their cannon. This brings your affairs nearer to a dangerous crisis, and increases my apprehensions.1
You will have learned from General Lincoln, that a second detachment sailed from New York on the 7th instant, supposed to be destined to reinforce Sir Henry Clinton. I have not yet ascertained all the particular corps, but know that the forty-second, the Irish volunteers, Queen’s rangers, and some foreign troops are of the number, and have every reason to believe the total number is from two thousand to two thousand five hundred. They appeared a few days since off the Chesapeake Bay, but immediately continued their voyage. I have just received an account of the arrival of forty-one transports at New York from South Carolina, and that there were strong symptoms of another embarkation. This circumstance is to me not of easy explanation. I should imagine that Sir Henry Clinton’s present force was equal to his object, and that he would not require more. The garrison of New York and its dependencies at this time cannot much exceed eight thousand men, a number barely sufficient for its defence, and not with propriety admitting a diminution. Perhaps, however, counting upon our weakness the enemy may determine to hazard something here, the more effectually to secure conquest to the southward; or perhaps they may only intend to detach a force for a temporary diversion in Virginia or North Carolina, to return afterwards to New York. I expect more certain advice to-day, and should it confirm the first, any demonstrations it may be in our power to make, to retard or prevent the embarkation, shall be put in practice; but unfortunately we have very little in our power.
In both your letters you express a wish, that I should come to the southward. Though I cannot flatter myself with the advantages you look for from such a step, yet, if it were proposed by Congress, I confess to you that I should not dislike the journey, did our affairs in this quarter permit it; but unluckily the great departments of the army are now in total confusion, and Congress have just appointed a committee in conjunction with me, to new model and rectify them. Till this is done, I could not leave this army. And, were not this obstacle in the way, you will easily conceive that I must have many scruples, which forbid me to let the measure in question originate with me. But all this for your private ear. Be assured, my dear Laurens, that I am extremely sensible to the expressions of your attachment, and that I feel all for your present situation, which the warmest friendship can dictate. I am confident you will do your duty, and in doing it you must run great hazards. May success attend you, and restore you with fresh laurels to your friends, to your country, and to me. I am, &c.
TO PRESIDENT REED.
I have had the honor to receive Your Excellency’s Letter of the 18th Instant. I am sorry to find the Council are apprehensive that difficulties will attend the collecting of the supplies required of the State, by the Resolution of Congress of the 25th of February; but I cannot see that it is in my power to prevent them in any degree. Your Excellency and the Council will perceive on recurring to the proceedings, that all I could do on the occasion was to appoint such places of deposit in each State for the Articles they were to furnish respectively as I should judge convenient, or in other words accommodated to the public service. This I have endeavored to do in the best manner I was able, from a full consideration of all circumstances, as well with respect to Pennsylvania as to every other State, and I am happy in the persuasion that Your Excellency and the Council will believe it has been the case. It was owing I imagine to the pressing necessity of the case and the very unhappy state of our public finance, that this mode of obtaining supplies was adopted; and it appears evidently to me to be the spirit and the expectation of the system, founded I suppose in the same unhappy necessity which led to the requisition for specific supplies, that each State should transport the Articles they are to furnish, to the places appointed within them as Deposits.
With respect to the Representation of the Field Officers of the Pennsylvania line, which Your Excellency has been pleased to transmit me,—it leads without doubt to consequences of an important and interesting nature. The Objects in general to which it goes are of such magnitude and delicacy, that I cannot undertake, either to decide or to give an opinion upon them. It is, however, certainly to be wished and the general interest requires it, that the Regiments which the public think proper to keep up, should be made more respectable than they are in many instances at present. How this is to be effected is with the particular States to determine. But Two modes occur to me,—either to do it by voluntary inlistment or by Drafting. Most of the States from which I have heard, have in consequence of the late requisition of Congress adopted the former, and it is said the business is attended with some success; but should this not be the case, the States must, if they mean to continue the War, have recourse to the other expedient. I am also persuaded that there is too much countenance given to Deserters, and if proper Laws could be devised and effectually executed against those that do it, that our force would be much more respectable than it is at present. There have been many instances where Deserters apprehended by Officers, have been rescued by the people—and but very few where the Officers have received their aid and support. As to a reduction and incorporation of the Regiments, it must depend on Congress, and be the effect probably of some general system of arrangement. I have expected for some days past a Committee at Camp, whose powers possibly may extend to this point. If they do the measure is thought eligible and adopted, it will I suppose of course comprehend a plan of provision for the Officers who are reduced. The wishes of the Legislature with respect to the Independent Companies of Artillery, will also be without doubt in such case attended to and the incorporation made if it can be done.
With respect to the depreciation of the money and making it up to the Officers and Soldiers, it were to be wished that it could be the result of some common general system that all might stand upon an equal footing. But whether this will or can be the case, I cannot pretend to say. Most if not the whole of the New England States as I have understood, have acted upon the matter and provided for it in the instance of their Troops; but I do not know the principles on which they have conducted the business. This being the case with respect to them those of the other States who have the same pretentions, will naturally expect relief from some quarter.
It is certain, the depreciation of the money has operated with singular severity against the Army, as their pay has not been increased and gives them an equitable claim to a compensation; but it may be a matter of difficulty to say how the compensation should be made. If it is to be in money—the payment at a future day would be attended with less injury to the Public and more advantage to those receiving it, as our finances would then be in a better train and of course the money more valuable; whereas at this time it would require a very extraordinary emission and add to the Public embarrassments while it afforded but little or no relief to the parties.
I have, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL HOWE.
Hd. Qrs.Morristown, 28 April, 1780.
Col. Hay delivered me your letter of the 18th of April.
It is lamentable that we should be obliged to experience such distresses as we do everywhere. Those we feel here are not inferior to yours; we are constantly on point of starving for want of provision and forage. A deficiency of money is the cause, and a cause for which the present situation of affairs renders it infinitely difficult to provide a remedy. We are at a most delicate crisis. I dread with you the consequences.
We are informed there is an arrival of 47 transports from South Carolina at New York, and that there are appearances of a further embarkation. It may be of use to make demonstrations of a movement on our part. I should be glad, so far as it can be done without interfering with the necessary operations, and without incurring expense, that you would set on foot a collection of boats on the river, and have them inspected and some little repairs made. Some time since you were directed at your own instance to have all the fascines and gabions, which had been provided in expectation of Count d’Estaing last fall, deposited within the works. If this has not been effected, you will be pleased to have it done. They may possibly be of future utility, and the act of removing them will contribute to our present purpose. A number were provided below Stony Point where the Virginia troops lay. You will not forget to remove these also to a place of security.
General Duportail being gone to the Southward, it is necessary that Col. Gouvion should repair to this army. If there are any previous arrangements, you wish him to make, you will be pleased to direct him to make them, and to set out for Head-Quarters as speedily as he can. It has been represented to me, that cattle coming on for this army have been stopped by some of your Commissaries for the use of the Garrison. As the Purchasing Commissary makes a distribution in the first instance, and always takes care to send a proportion to the posts under your command, any interference of this kind is irregular and improper. You will be pleased to give orders to prevent it in future. Our wants here are so extreme, that the supplies intended for this part of the army cannot be diverted to any other without risking the most serious consequences.
The state of our arsenals makes the greatest care and œconomy indispensable. I wish you to pay a pointed attention, that the men whose times of service expire do not, at leaving the army, carry away the public arms with them. Such, who may have brought arms of their own with them, for which they have not been paid, and which have been exchanged for better, they must as far as may be practicable return those they now have and receive their own. You will make the commandants of battalions particularly responsible for carrying this into execution. The Maryland division being gone to the Southward, all the men belonging to it in the Hospitals at Albany are directed to be sent to Fish Kill. When arrived there, you will take measures to have them and those already at Fish Kill forwarded to this place. Should they want any little necessaries of shoes, &c., you will have them supplied. I am, with great regard, &c.
TO THE REVEREND DOCTOR WILLIAM GORDON.
I received some time ago your Letter of the 29th of February and 1st of March by Colo. Henley. From a multiplicity of important pressing business which I have had on hand, I was prevented from communicating it to Colo. Hamilton till yesterday. It was then put into his hands, as You will perceive by the Inclosure No. 1 & 2, a Copy of my Letter to him upon the occasion and his answer. While I must ascribe it to your politeness, I regret that the consideration of Colo. Hamilton’s being a member of my family should have been a motive for bringing so disagreeable a business before me. The Gentlemen attached to me are upon the same footing with the other officers of the Army, and equally responsible for their conduct. You will pursue such a mode in the present case as you deem most effectual, but if you should think proper to exhibit any charge against Colo. Hamilton cognizable by a military tribunal, you have only to signify your wish and the time you will be able to produce your witnesses, and I shall proceed in it accordingly.1
As far as the temper and disposition of the several Courts of Europe are developed, and known to us, the assisting of G. Britain does not appear to be an object with them; and yet, if we are to form a judgment from report, and indeed from appearances, the King and his Ministers are firmly resolved to prosecute the War in America with unabating rigor—depending, it is to be presumed, upon the wretched state of our money, more than they do on the expectation of foreign aid.
If the plan of finance adopted by Congress, should receive that general support which the exigency of the times loudly calls for, and which I hope and trust it will not fail to do, from every well wisher to his Country, I believe the foundation on which the enemy have superstructed their plans will give way, and leave the contrivers and authors of the present mischief to that punishment which an injured and deceived people are ready to inflict, and which the populace of England as well as Ireland seem now to be preparing. For this purpose a spirit is gone forth and is now manifesting itself, I hope, under ye appo. of Association Committees &c. That it may also be the harbinger of Peace to this distressed Country, I most fervently wish.1
For your good wishes, you will please to accept my sincere thanks. My best respects, in which Mrs. Washington joins, are presented to Mrs. Gordon—and compliments to all enquiring friends. I am, &c.2
TO JAMES DUANE.
Morristown, 13 May, 1780.
Your favors of the 4th and 9th came safe to hand. I thank you very sincerely for the several articles of Intelligence contained in them; and shall be happy, at all times, to hear from you when any thing occurs worthy of the moments which must be spent in the communication.
My hearty wishes attend your endeavors to accomplish the Confederation. It is certainly a most desirable event for us, and a much dreaded one by the enemy.
The spirit which seems to have gone forth in England, must methinks, exceedingly embarras the measures of Administration, and give proportionate aid to our cause. This, or some other accounts by the last Packet, has, undoubtedly, produced dejected countenances in New York. The advice boat that brought them not being able to proceed with the despatches for Sir Henry Clinton, in the instant of her arrival, another was ordered and sailed immediately for Charles Town with them. The Tories you may depend on it are much alarm’d.
I am exceedingly anxious for the fate of Charles Town; more so for the Garrison, and the accumulated stores, in it:—but much rejoiced, and indeed relieved, at hearing that the Governor and part of his Council had left the City for the purpose of supporting legal Government in the State at large.
I am sorry to hear of Huger’s misfortune on many accounts. An officer may be beaten and yet obtain honor, but disgrace must for ever accompany surprizes. The want of money is much to be regretted—The consequences may be fatal from causes too many and too obvious to stand in need of enumeration. I am pleased however to hear that the several States from whence accounts are received have either adopted, or are about to adopt the scheme of finance, recommended by Congress. I am clearly in sentiment with you that it ought to be supported although it may be, in some respects, exceptionable.
The arrival of Messrs. Jay and Gerard1 is a pleasing event, as is that of the Marquis de Lafayette in this country. He is now here, a little indisposed with a cold, but will proceed on to Congress to-morrow or next day. Mrs. Washington and the Gentlemen of my family join their best wishes, most cordially with mine,—to these you will permit me to add my grateful acknowledgments and warmest thanks for your friendly and polite assurances of regard and to declare at the same time that with much esteem and personal attachment, I am, &c.
P. S. I have received fresh, and authentic Intelligence that the enemy are in great consternation at New York. They are going to run lines of defence from the East to the North River, are throwing up new Works at the Narrows, and have a number of Vessels loaded with stone to sink and obstruct the entrance of the harbor. Two advice Boats were sent from N. Y. within the space of 48 hours, after the arrival of the despatches from England to Sir Hy. Clinton, &c., &c.
TO JAMES DUANE.
Morristown, 14 May, 1780.
The arrival of the Marquis de Lafayette opens a prospect, which offers the most important advantages to these States, if proper measures are adopted to improve it.1 He announces an intention of his court to send a fleet and army to coöperate effectually with us. In the present state of our finances, and in the total emptiness of our magazines, a plan must be concerted to bring out the resources of the country with vigor and decision. This I think you will agree with me cannot be effected, if the measures to be taken should depend on the slow deliberations of a body so large as Congress, admitting the best disposition in every member to promote the objects in view. It appears to me of the greatest importance, and even of absolute necessity, that a small committee should be immediately appointed to reside near head-quarters, vested with all the powers which Congress have, so far as respects the purpose of a full coöperation with the French fleet and army on the continent. Their authority should be plenipotentiary to draw out men and supplies of every kind, and to give their sanction to any operations which the Commander-in-chief may not think himself at liberty to undertake without it, as well beyond as within the limits of these States. The committee can act with despatch and energy. By being on the spot it will be able to provide for exigencies as they rise, and the better to judge of their nature and urgency. The plans in contemplation may be opened to them with more freedom and confidence, than to a numerous body, where secrecy is impossible, where the indiscretion of a single member by disclosing may defeat the project.
I need not enlarge on the advantages of such a measure, as I flatter myself they will all occur to you, and that you will be ready to propose and give it all your support. The conjuncture is one of the most critical and important we have seen; all our prudence and exertions are requisite to give it a favorable issue; hesitancy and delay would in all probability ruin our affairs. Circumstanced as we are, the greatest good or the greatest ill must result. We shall probably fix the independence of America if we succeed, and, if we fail, the abilities of the States will have been so strained in the attempt, that a total relaxation and debility must ensue, and the worst is to be apprehended. These considerations should determine Congress to forego all inferior objects, and unite with mutual confidence in those measures, which seem best calculated to insure success.
* * * * * *
There is no man, that can be more useful as a member of the committee than General Schuyler. His perfect knowledge of the resources of the country, the activity of his temper, his fruitfulness of expedients, and his sound military sense, make me wish, above all things, he may be appointed. I have also a very favorable opinion of Mr. Mathews’s understanding and integrity; and I should be willing to trust every thing to the goodness of the other’s intentions, if I had not some doubts of his discretion. I wish the Chancellor1 or yourself could be in the appointment. A well composed committee is of primary importance. I need not hint that the delicacy of these intimations fits them only for your private ear. The opinion I have of your friendship induces me thus freely and confidentially to impart my sentiments on this occasion, and I shall be very happy, if you may agree with me in judgment.
I am with the greatest esteem and regard, &c.
TO GOVERNOR JEFFERSON.
Morristown, 15 May, 1780.
I have the pleasure to inform your Excellency confidentially, that a French fleet may in the course of a few weeks be expected on this coast, and as it is uncertain what part of the land they may first make, gentlemen are to be stationed at different points, to give them signals and to make them some necessary communications immediately upon their arrival. Major Galvan, who will have the honor of delivering this to your Excellency, is appointed to go down to Cape Henry, for the purposes above mentioned; and, as he will have occasion to keep one or two boats in constant readiness to go off upon the appearance of the fleet, I shall be much obliged by your giving an order to the person, who has the superintendence of the public vessels and craft in Virginia, to supply him with the necessary number. Should the public have none of the proper kind in their possession, you will be pleased to recommend to Major Galvan the most certain and speedy method of procuring them. One or two skilful and trusty pilots will also be necessary, that, if any of the ships should have occasion to enter the bay, they may not be at a loss.
Your Excellency will no doubt see the propriety of keeping the object of Major Galvan’s mission as much a secret as possible, lest the importance of the despatches, with which he is charged, might be an inducement to some of the disaffected to take him off. It would add much to his security, if your Excellency would be good enough to introduce him to some gentlemen in the neighborhood of Cape Henry, in whom he may confide, and with whom he may remain while in that quarter. It is essentially necessary that Major Galvan should be constantly informed of the operations in South Carolina; and, as he will be out of the common track of intelligence, I have desired him to keep up a communication with your Excellency. Your acquainting him therefore with what comes to your knowledge, either officially or in a manner sufficiently authentic to be depended upon, may be productive of most salutary consequences. I would beg leave to recommend Major Galvan generally to your Excellency, for every public assistance of which he may stand in need, and particularly to your personal civilities. I am, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL HEATH, AT BOSTON.
Head-Qrs., May 15, 1780.
I have the pleasure to inform you in strict confidence, that we have authentic advices of his Most Christian Majesty’s determination to send a respectable armament of sea and land forces to operate on the continent, and that the period is not remote when we may expect their arrival. Having informed you of this, I am now to add, that the destruction of Halifax, of the Naval Arsenals and Garrison there, is a primary object with our allies; as, this being effected, the support of the Enemy’s marine in those seas and in the West Indies would be exceedingly difficult and precarious, and, in this view, that there is nothing they seem to wish for more. It would certainly be an event of infinite importance to them, and of course to the common cause; and therefore we ought, as far as possible, to give every aid in our power to accomplish it. It may be essential to the success of any attempt, that may be made against the place, to obtain previous information with respect to the force, the corps that are there, of the number, sort, and condition of the Fortifications, and also the Ships of War; which are points about which our allies appear to be in the dark, and on which unhappily I cannot give them the necessary satisfaction myself. I therefore earnestly request, that you will assist me in this very important business, as far as present circumstances will permit, by communicating to me by the earliest opportunity the result of such inquiries, as you shall make on the subject. You cannot be too minute and particular with respect to it; and I should hope from the frequent flags, which I think I have heard have passed between Halifax and Boston for the exchange of prisoners, that you may gain good and useful intelligence upon the occasion.
I request this as a first step; but, besides, I wish you if possible to send to Halifax, in such way as may appear the most likely to succeed, One or Two persons of good understanding, and upon whose firmness and fidelity we may safely rely, to obtain the most exact account of those matters. If they could be Draftsmen, they would be so much the better, as a good plan of the Fortifications would be of essential service, and is what our Friends are very desirous of obtaining. I have written to Honorable Mr. Bowdoin a confidential Letter on these subjects; and I am persuaded that he and the Council, without disclosing the matter, on your application, if you should find it necessary to make one, will most cheerfully do any thing that may be requisite to promote the plan for gaining intelligence, and will assist you with money if you should have occasion for it. If you can engage proper persons to go on the Business, you may stipulate with them for a generous compensation to be made to them on their return, and which will be increased in proportion to the importance of the information they bring. You will extend your inquiries in like manner to the post and garrison at Penobscot, and procure the best account of these that you can. If our allies should operate against Halifax, they will necessarily have occasion for some skilful and faithful pilots acquainted with the Coast and Harbor. I therefore wish you to turn your attention to the matter, and to inform me whether such may be had in case they are wanted. You will also do the same with respect to Penobscot. Indeed it might be best, if you have an opportunity, to speak to some of the pilots, who would be proper to be employed, and without discovering the matter with respect to an arrival of a fleet from France, know whether in case of such an expedition they would embark in it.
I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO GOVERNOR RUTLEDGE.
I have the honor to enclose your Excellency two copies of a letter for General Lincoln, which you will observe contain intelligence the most important. It is a question how far it is the interest of these States to have the seige of Charles Town raised at this juncture; for if the arrival of the French fleet should find the enemy in their present divided state there is every reason to hope for the most decisive consequences. On the other hand if they should concenter their force at New York an operation against it would be attended with immense difficulty, delay, and hazard—but the Southern States would be relieved—an advantage of the greatest moment. We have great reason to believe the enemy have received advice by a frigate lately from England of the intention of our allies; if this is the case, secrecy on our part would answer little purpose (indeed it is to a certain point impracticable). Sir Henry in this case, will probably have taken his measures before this arrives, and unless he expects a naval support from England, will have abandoned the enterprise. Lest, however, a want of certainty in his advices may have induced him to continue his operations, it may be of consequence to apprise General Lincoln and the garrison of the expected succor. It would give new spirit to the defence and may tend to prolong it till effectual assistance can be given, either by directing the French armament to the Southward or by operations in this quarter. You will therefore have the goodness to transmit my letter to him if you have any communication open.
The intention of sending you two copies is this—Should the progress of the enemy against the Town indicate its speedy loss, you can so contrive it, that one of the copies may fall into the enemy’s hands, as if by accident, or you can otherwise take effectual measures to give them such information of it as they will believe. This may possibly either precipitate their measure to an unfavorable issue or make them relinquish the seige; and in one way or the other save the Town.
If you should not think the Town in material danger, it will be best to confine the knowledge of what I now communicate, and not let it go beyond General Lincoln. In this case I would not wish to alarm the enemy for the reasons already assigned.
I am happy to learn by the way of New York that Charles Town was still safe the first of this month—I hope it has continued so:—A failure in this attempt will have the greatest influence to the prejudice of the affairs of England. I congratulate you on this new instance of the friendship of our ally. The part the Court of France has acted is truly politic and magnanimous and has a claim to the lasting affection of this country.
With every sentiment of respect and esteem, I have, &c.
P. S. I request your Excellency’s opinion as speedily as possible, in case the French fleet and army should proceed to the Southward—where under present circumstances would be a proper place of debarkation, whether a sufficiency of provisions can be procured, the means of transportation for an army, horses for the officers and for a corps of three hundred Cavalry.
TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE, AT PHILADELPHIA.
My Dear Marquis,
Since you left me I have more fully reflected on the plan which it will be proper for the French fleet and army to pursue on their arrival upon the Coast; and it appears to me, in the present situation of the enemy at New York, that it ought to be our first object to reduce that post, and that it is of the utmost importance not to lose a moment in repairing to that place. I would therefore advise you to write to the Count de Rochambeau and Monr. de Ternay in the following spirit, urging them in the strongest terms to proceed, both fleet and army, with all possible expedition to Sandy Hook, where they will be met with further advices of the precise situation, strength, and disposition of the enemy, and of our army, and with proposals for their future movements, unless they should have received authentic accounts that the fleet and troops now operating in the Southern States have evacuated them, and formed a junction at New York. In this case, if they arrive at Rhode Island, they can disembark their troops, dispose of their sick and spare stores, and wait till a more definitive plan can be concerted; or, if they arrive off Cape Henry, they can proceed directly to Rhode Island, and make the same arrangements. But in case they should not have received the accounts above mentioned of the evacuation of the Southern States and junction at New York, and should proceed directly to Sandy Hook as is recommended, they can send their sick, and every thing of which they wish to be disencumbered, to Rhode Island.
The reasons for proceeding immediately to New York, in the present situation of the enemy there, are these. Their whole effective land force, in regular troops, is about 8,000 men, to which may be added about 4,000 refugees, and such of the militia as they would be able by persuasion or force to engage; but on the militia they can I should suppose place little dependence. Their naval force is one ship of 74 guns and three or four small frigates. If the arrival of the French succor should find them in this situation, the fleet can enter the harbor of New York without difficulty, and this is a point upon which the success of the whole enterprise absolutely turns. By stopping at Rhode Island, if they arrive there, or by passing from Cape Henry to Rhode Island, the most precious time will be lost, which will multiply the chances to the enemy of concentring their force, of receiving a naval reinforcement from England or the West Indies, of increasing their precautions to obstruct the channel and their preparations for the defence of their posts. By gaining possession of the Harbor and cutting off its communication, the present garrison at New York would be unable to resist the efforts of the combined forces; and, together with their ships, must in all probability fall into our hands. On the contrary, if they have time to concentre all their sea and land force on the Continent at New York, the enterprise against that place becomes extremely arduous, has much less prospect of success, and will at least exhaust the whole campaign to bring it to a favorable issue.
The enemy have in the expedition under Sir Henry Clinton about seven thousand land troops, three ships of the line, one fifty-gun, two forty-four, and some smaller frigates. If these ships were added to the force at New York, they would, I apprehend, be sufficient to exclude the French Squadron, unless aided by a vigorous coöperation by land towards Sandy Hook; and the garrison, increased to fourteen or fifteen thousand regular troops, would present immense difficulties in the way of its reduction.
I observed that the French squadron would find no difficulty in entering the port of New York, with the present naval force of the enemy there. The only possible obstacle to this is the obstructions the enemy are preparing; but I am inclined to hope these will be ineffectual and will be easily removed. They last fall made an attempt of the kind, on the expectation of Count d’Estaing; but it failed from the depth of the water and rapidity of the current. Pilots for the harbor can be ready at Black Point in the Jerseys, from which they can go on Board the fleet at its first appearance. I would wish you to place these things in the fullest light to the French Commanders by way of recommendation, leaving it to them to act according to the condition of the fleet and troops with respect to health and other essential matters; and, if they prefer it, to go immediately to Rhode Island from Cape Henry; or, if they arrive at the former place in the first instance, to wait till a Definitive plan is adopted. But I think every reason points to the mode here recommended.
You will be sensible, my Dear Sir, that we can at present only touch upon preliminary measures. The plan for ultimate operations must be the result of mature deliberation, a full view of our resources, and must be formed in conjunction with the General and Admiral of the French forces. I refer Mr. Galvan to you for instructions; but I send you a letter to Governor Jefferson of Virginia to give him any assistance he may require, and to correspond with him on the state of southern affairs. His own discretion, and the information he will get on the spot, must chiefly govern him. He cannot be despatched too soon.
I request you, in writing to the Count de Rochambeau and Monsieur de Ternay, to assure them of all my respect and consideration, of the high sense I entertain of this distinguished mark of his Christian Majesty’s friendship to these States, and of the happiness I anticipate in a personal acquaintance and co-operation with gentlemen, whose reputations have inspired me with the greatest esteem for their talents and merit. You will add, that I will do every thing on my part to give success to the intended operations, and that I flatter myself they will be attended with the happiest consequences. I cannot forbear recalling your attention to the importance of doing every thing possible to engage the Count de Guichen to come upon this Coast without delay. The more I reflect upon it, the more essential it appears. With this addition to our present plan, we should have reason to flatter ourselves with every thing; without it, we have a great deal to apprehend, and, instead of the happiest, the worst consequences may ensue to the common cause. * * * I am, my dear Marquis, with the greatest truth and affection, your friend, &c.
TO BRIGADIER-GENERAL WAYNE.
Head Qrs.,Morristown, May 18th, 1780.
I yesterday received your obliging favor of the 10th instant. From the great importance of the subject, I confess I am infinitely anxious myself about the issue of the operations against Charles Town; and wish most cordially that we had it more in our power to pursue means, which would certainly relieve it. The unhappy state of our finance is opposed to this, and lays us under every embarrassment that can be conceived. If we could once get this in a more favorable train, our affairs would look up, and we might do a Thousand things which are now utterly impracticable. I thank you very much for your suggestions with respect to the mode of giving succor in that Quarter, and shall always be happy in the freest communication of your sentiments. The same had often been in my mind, and it would certainly be the most eligible way, if we were in circumstances to pursue it. But besides our distresses on the score of supplies, you will painfully recollect, that this Winter and Spring have put a period to the service of no inconsiderable part of our Force. I also thank you for your attention to the Maryland Troops, and for your endeavors to assist them. A melancholy consideration indeed, that we cannot move even a small detachment, however interesting the occasion, without the greatest difficulty and delay!
I shall be very happy to see you at Camp again, and hope you will without hesitation resume your command in the Pennsylvania line. I know, on a former occasion, you had some difficulties on this head; but, when you consider the point, you will see the propriety of the measure. When I have the pleasure of seeing you, I shall talk with you more fully on the subject.
I am, with very sincere regard and esteem, dear Sir, &c. * * *
TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE.
Hd., Qrs.Morris Town, 19 May, 1780.
I impatiently wait, my Dear Marquis, to know the result of the arrangements you were to make with Congress. The time slides away so fast, and we have so little before us, that every moment is infinitely precious, and ought to be improved. We talked of a Proclamation to the Canadians. If it is not already done, I think it ought not to be delayed. It should be in your own name, and have as much as possible an air of probability. Perhaps it will be more plausible to have two different kinds struck; one intimating to them the arrival of a french fleet and army in the River St. Lawrence, to coöperate with these States, to be expected, by the way of Rhode Island, where they are to touch, for to answer some importt. purposes, and dwelling on the happy opportunity it will afford them to renew their ancient friendship with France, by joining the allied arms and assisting to make Canada a part of the American confederation, with all the privileges and advantages enjoyed by the other members; cautioning them by no means to aid the enemy in their preparations for defending the Province. The other proclamation should be drawn, on the supposition of the fleet and army being already arrived, and should contain an animating invitation to arrange themselves under the allied banners. In both proclamations you should hold yourself up as a French and American officer, charged both by the King of France and by Congress with a commission to address them upon the occasion. It may indeed be well to throw out an idea, that you are to command the corps of American troops destined to coöperate with the French armament. The more mystery in this business the better. It will get out, and it ought to seem to be against our intention.1
In a memorandum, you left with Col. Hamilton, you mention pilots to be sent to Cape Henry to conduct the fleet to Rhode Island. This does not appear to me necessary; as there will be pilots ready at Rhode Island to take the fleet into the Harbor, and every navigator can answer the purpose to the entrance of the port. If however you think it will be expected that pilots be ready at Cape Henry, you can apply to the Marine Committee, who can easily provide them. I am, &c.
I forgot to observe, that something might be addressed to the savages. I mentioned to you, when here, the inserting a paragraph in the papers somewhat to this effect:
“We have it from good authority, that the Marquis de Lafayette brings the important and agreeable intelligence of a very considerable naval and land force, intended to be sent by his Most Christian Majesty to the succor of these States; and that the Campaign will open with a combined operation against New York. This, there is every reason to hope, with proper exertions on our part, will put a happy period to the war; nor can there be any room to doubt that the glorious opportunity will be effectually improved. This instance of the friendship of our ally is a new claim to the lasting affection and gratitude of this country.”
I think such a paragraph will be useful, as the people will be roused by it; while the enemy, by the address to the Canadians and other demonstrations pointing another way, may be distracted by attending to different objects and weakened. You will judge by appearances how far it may be agreeable to Congress. I am, with all affection and sincerity, yours truly.
TO PHILIP SCHUYLER.
Morristown, 21 May, 1780.
Supposing the enemy to continue in their present divided state, where can they be attacked to the greatest advantage, and in what manner can we operate most effectually against them? Is not that part of their army and shipping, which is at the southward, more exposed and liable to a more certain blow, than the other part, which is at New York, where there is uncertainty of getting into the harbor, and where works surrounding the city are already established for its defence, and every possible exertion using to increase and strengthen them? What danger, for want of secure harbors for ships of the line, would the French fleet be involved in on the Carolina coast? What difficulties should we have to encounter in getting there with the necessary apparatus, provisions, &c? And how could we be supported when there, in case an enterprise of this kind should otherwise be thought eligible?
Supposing again the enemy to form a junction of their force at New York, what is practicable to be done in that case? And what measures had best be pursued in consequence? Again, let us supppose the enemy to have succeeded at Charles Town, that they have captured the garrison employed in defence of it, that they mean to leave a sufficient force in the States of South Carolina and Georgia to hold the towns of Charles Town and Savanna, without aiming at any thing more in that quarter at present; and the rest arrived at New York; what is best for us to do in that case?
In a word, my wish is to have our situation and that of the enemy considered in all the points of view they can be placed, and the most advantageous plan of operation proposed for each. What force in aid of the French army and Continental troops will it be necessary to call upon the States for, in case of an operation against New York? To answer this question, it is necessary to premise, that, in New York and its dependencies, there are at least eight thousand regular troops, besides about four thousand refugees and militia—how many of the latter, (when matters become serious) can be brought to act, is more than I can tell. At the southward there are about seven thousand regular troops, under the immediate command of Sir Henry Clinton.
Supposing the enemy to continue in the divided state they are at present, and New York (the troops in it I mean) should be our object, how far with perfect safety would it be practicable to let the French troops act separately on long Island, if it should be judged expedient to attack the town by a combined operation in that quarter and from York Island at the same time? Where had the French best establish their hospitals and deposit their heavy stores? Under a full view of all circumstances, what position is most eligible for the American army to take, previous to the arrival of the french fleet and army; and when should it be taken?
TO PHILIP SCHUYLER, JOHN MATHEWS, AND NATHANIEL PEABODY, A COMMITTEE FROM CONGRESS.
Morris Town, 25 May, 1780.
I have attentively considered the circular letter to the different States, which you did me the honor to communicate for my perusal, and I am happy to find, that my ideas perfectly correspond with those of the committee. The view they have given of our situation is just, full, and explicit; the measures they have recommended are well adapted to the emergency and of indispensable necessity. I very freely give it as my opinion, that, unless they are carried into execution in the fullest extent and with the greatest decision and rapidity, it will be impossible for us to undertake the intended coöperation with any reasonable prospect of success.
The consequences you have well delineated. The succor designed for our benefit will prove a serious misfortune, and, instead of rescuing us from the embarrassments we experience, and from the danger with which we are threatened, will, in all probability, precipitate our ruin.1 Drained and weakened as we already are, the exertions we shall make, though they may be too imperfect to secure success, will at any rate be such as to leave us in a state of relaxation and debility, from which it will be difficult if not impracticable to recover; the Country exhausted, the People dispirited, the consequence and reputation of these States in Europe sunk, our friends chagrined and discouraged, our Enemies deriving new credit, new confidence, new resources. We have not, nor ought we to wish, an alternative. The court of France has done so much for us, that we must make a decisive effort on our part. Our situation demands it, ’t is expected. We have the means of success, and it only remains to employ them. But the conjuncture requires all our wisdom and all our energy. Such is the present state of this country, that the utmost exertion of its resources, though equal, is not more than equal to the object, and our measures must be so taken as to call them into immediate and full effect.
There is only one thing, which I should have been happy the committee had thought proper to take up on a larger scale; I mean the supply of men by draughts. Instead of compleating the deficiencies of the quotas assigned by the resolution of Congress of the 9th of February last, it would, in my apprehension, be of the greatest importance, that the respective States should fill their Battalions to their complement of five hundred and four, rank and file. Considering the different possible dispositions of the enemy, and the different possible operations on our part, we ought not to have less than Twenty thousand Continental efficient troops. The whole number of Battalions from New Hampshire to Pensylvania inclusive, if complete, would not amount to this force. The total would be twenty-three thousand one hundred and eighty-four, rank and file, from which the customary deductions being made, there will not remain more than about Eighteen thousand fit for the service of the field. To this may be added the remainder of the Sixteen Regiments, amounting to about one thousand.
Unless the principal part of the force be composed of men regularly organized, and on the continuance of whose services we can rely, nothing decisive can be attempted. The Militia are too precarious a dependence to justify such an attempt, where they form a material part of the plan. Militia cannot have the necessary habits nor the consistency, either for an assault or a siege. In employing them essentially, we should run a risk of being abandoned in the most critical moments. The expense and the consumption of Provisions and stores, (which we are bound by every motive to economize,) will be very considerably increased. As we should not be able to keep the same body in the field, during the whole campaign, we should a great part of the time have a double set of men to pay and feed, those in actual service, and those on the march to relieve them or returning home when relieved. The operations of husbandry will suffer in proportion.
The mode by Draught is, I am persuaded, the only efficacious one to obtain men. It appears to me certain, that it is the only one to obtain them in time; nor can the period, which you have appointed for bringing them into the field, be delayed without defeating the object. I have little doubt, that at any time, and much less at the present juncture, the powers of government exerted with confidence will be equal to the purpose of Draughting. The hopes of the people, elevated by the prospects before them, will induce a chearful compliance with this and all the other measures of vigor, which have been recommended, and which the exigency requires. Notwithstanding the extension of the Draught which I have taken the liberty to advise, occasional aids of militia will be still wanted, but in much less number in this case than in the other. I have entire confidence, that the respective Legislatures will be fully impressed with the importance and delicacy of the present juncture, and will second the views of the committee by the most speedy and vigorous efforts. With every sentiment of respect and esteem, I am, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
It is with infinite pain I inform Congress, that we are reduced again to a situation of extremity for want of meat. On several days of late, the Troops have been entirely destitute of any, and for a considerable time past they have been at best, at half, a quarter, an Eighth allowance of this essential article of provision. The men have borne their distress in general with a firmness and patience never exceeded, and every commendation is due the officers for encouraging them to it, by exhortation and by example. They have suffered equally with the men, and their relative situations considered, rather more. But such reiterated, constant instances of want are too much for the soldiery, and cannot but lead to alarming consequences. Accordingly Two Regiments of the Connecticut line mutinied, and got under arms on Thursday night. And but for the timely exertions of some of their officers, who got notice of it, it might have been the case with the whole, with a determination to return home, or at best to gain subsistence at the point of the bayonet. After a good deal of expostulation by their officers and some of the Pennsylvania line, who had come to their assistance, and after parading their regiments upon the occasion, the men were prevailed on to go to their huts; but a few nevertheless turned out again with their packs, who are now confined. Colonel Meigs, who acted with great propriety in endeavoring to suppress the mutiny, was struck by one of the soldiers. I wish our situation was better with respect to provision in other quarters, but it is not. They are in as great distress at West Point to the full; and, by a Letter of the 19th from Colo. Van Schaick at Albany, he informs me, that the Garrison of Fort Schuyler had then only a month’s supply on hand, and that there was no more provision to send them. From this detail Congress will see how distressing our situation is; but there are other matters which still contribute to render it more alarming.
By advices received from prisoners who escaped from Montreal about the last of April and some who escaped from other parts of Canada, the Enemy were assembling a considerable force at Montreal, composed of Regulars, Tories and Savages, and making preparations of Cannon, &c. for an expedition against Fort Schuyler, on which they were to set out the 15th Instant. How far this may really be the case I cannot determine, but by a Letter received to-day by Gen. Schuyler from His Excellency Governor Clinton, dated at Kingston the 23d, Sir John Johnston had penetrated as far as Johnstown, and seemed to be taking post. If a force is coming against Fort Schuyler and which it is to be apprehended is the case to justify this measure—the manœuvre must be intended to prevent supplies of provision (supposing we had them) from being thrown into the Garrison. In consequence of this disagreeable intelligence, I have determined if it can possibly be done, to put the York Troops in motion for the North River and embark them for Albany—from whence they will proceed and act as circumstances will admit and require.1 What they will do for provisions I know not, as we have none; and as the great exertions of the State for the support of the Army last year, and that part of it which lies at the Highland posts till the present time—added to the shortness and bad quality of their crops with the destruction of several of their Frontier settlements, have drained the Inhabitants to the distress of their families. I am now entreated in the most pressing terms, to send on flour to supply the Troops at West Point, and from the fullest persuasion of the inability of the State of New York to do more than she has already—I was compelled two days ago to order a Hundred Barrells of flour to be forwarded from here even for the Troops at Fort Schuyler.
Nothing is farther from my wishes, than to add in the smallest degree to the distresses or embarrassments of Congress on any occasion, and more particularly on one where I have every reason to fear they have it not in their power to administer the least relief. Duty however compels me to add one matter more to those I have already detailed. I have been informed by the Two Colonels of the Pennsylvania line, in whom I have the utmost confidence, who were called to assist Colo: Meigs to suppress the mutiny on Thursday night, that in the course of their expostulations the troops very pointedly mentioned, besides their distresses for provision, their not being paid for Five months; and, what is of a still more serious and delicate nature in our present circumstances, they mentioned the great depreciation of the money, it’s being of little or no value at all, and yet, if they should be paid, that it would be in this way, and according to the usual amount, without an adequate allowance for the depreciation. They were reasoned with, and every argument used that these gentlemen and Colo: Meigs could devise, either to interest their pride or their passions; they were reminded of their past good conduct; of the late assurances of Congress; of the objects for which they were contending; but their answer was, that their sufferings were too great, and that they wanted present relief, and some present substantial recompense for their services. This matter, I confess, tho’ I have heard of no further uneasiness among the men, has given me infinitely more concern, than any thing that has ever happened, and strikes me as the most important, because we have no means at this time, that I know of, for paying the troops, but in Continental money; and as it is evidently impracticable, from the immense quantity it would require, to pay them in this, as much as would make up the depreciation. Every possible means in my power will be directed on this and on all occasions, as they ever have been, to preserve order and promote the public service; but in such an accumulation of distresses, amidst such a variety of embarrassments, which surround us on all sides, this will be found at least extremely difficult. If the troops could only be comfortably supplied with provisions, it would be a great point, and such as would with the event we expect soon to take place, the arrival of the armament from France to our succor, make them forget or at least forego many matters, which make a part of their anxiety and present complaints. I am, &c.1
P. S. I enclose Your Excellency three New York Gazettes; also a small printed paper found in our camp, containing an address to our soldiers by the enemy, to induce them to desert. It is most likely, that many copies were dispersed, and that they have had a considerable effect, tho’ this is the only one that has been seen by the officers, notwithstanding their pains to find them. Your Excellency will see the points on which the enemy particularly found their addresses.2
TO PRESIDENT REED.
Morristown, May 28, 1780.
I am obliged to you for your favor of the 23d.
Nothing could be more necessary, than the aid given by your State towards supplying us with provision. I assure you, every idea you can form of our distresses will fall short of the reality. There is such a combination of circumstances to exhaust the patience of the soldiery, that it begins at length to be worn out, and we see in every line of the army the most serious features of mutiny and sedition. All our departments, all our operations, are at a stand; and unless a system, very different from that which for a long time prevailed, be immediately adopted throughout the States, our affairs must soon become desperate beyond the possibility of recovery. If you were on the spot, my dear Sir, if you could see what difficulties surround us on every side, how unable we are to administer to the most ordinary calls of the service, you would be convinced, that these expressions are not too strong, and that we have almost ceased to hope. The country in general is in such a state of insensibility and indifference to its interest, that I dare not flatter myself with any change for the better.
The committee of Congress, in their late address to the several States, have given a just picture of our situation. I very much doubt its making the desired impression; and, if it does not, I shall consider our lethargy as incurable. The present juncture is so interesting, that if it does not produce correspondent exertions, it will be a proof that motives of honor, public good, and even self-preservation, have lost their influence upon our minds. This is a decisive moment; one of the most, (I will go further and say, the most) important America has seen. The court of France has made a glorious effort for our deliverance, and if we disappoint its intentions by our supineness, we must become contemptible in the eyes of all mankind; nor can we after that venture to confide, that our allies will persist in an attempt to establish what it will appear we want inclination or ability to assist them in.
Every view of our own circumstances ought to determine us to the most vigorous efforts; but there are considerations of another kind, that should have equal weight.—The combined fleets of France and Spain last year were greatly superior to those of the enemy.—The enemy nevertheless sustained no material damage, and at the close of the campaign have given a very important blow to our allies. This campaign the difference between the fleets, from every account I have been able to collect, will be very inconsiderable. Indeed it is far from clear, that there will not be an equality.—What are we to expect will be the case, if there should be another campaign? In all probability the advantage will be on the side of the English. And then what would become of America? We ought not to deceive ourselves. The maritime resources of Great Britain are more substantial and real, than those of France and Spain united. Her commerce is more extensive, than that of both her rivals; and it is an axiom, that the nation which has the most extensive commerce will always have the most powerful marine. Were this argument less convincing, the fact speaks for itself. Her progress in the course of the last year is an incontestable proof.
It is true, France in a manner created a Fleet in a very short space, and this may mislead us in the judgment we form of her naval abilities. But, if they bore any comparison with those of Great Britain, how comes it to pass, that, with all the force of Spain added, she has lost so much ground in so short a time, as now to have scarcely a superiority? We should consider what was done by France, as a violent and unnatural effort of the government, which, for want of sufficient foundation, cannot continue to operate proportionable effects.
In modern wars, the longest purse must chiefly determine the event. I fear that of the enemy will be found to be so. Though the government is deeply in debt, and of course poor, the Nation is rich, and their riches afford a fund, which will not be easily exhausted. Besides, their system of public credit is such, that it is capable of greater exertion than that of any other nation. Speculatists have been a long time foretelling its downfall; but we see no symptoms of the catastrophe being very near. I am persuaded that it will at least last out the war, and then in the opinion of many of the best politicians it will be a national advantage. If the war should terminate successfully, the crown will have acquired such influence and power, that it may attempt any thing; and a bankruptcy will probably be made a ladder to climb to absolute authority. Administration may perhaps wish to drive matters to this issue. At any rate they will not be restrained, by an apprehension of it, from forcing the resources of the state. It will promote their present purposes, on which their all is at stake, and it may pave the way to triumph more effectually over the constitution. With this disposition I have no doubt that ample means will be found to prosecute the war with the greatest vigor.
France is in a very different position. The abilities of her present financier has done wonders. By a wise administration of the revenues, aided by advantageous loans, he has avoided the necessity of additional taxes; but I am well informed, if the war continues another campaign, he will be obliged to have recourse to the taxes usual in time of war, which are very heavy; and which the people of France are not in a condition to endure for any duration. When this necessity commences, France makes war on ruinous terms, and England, from her individual wealth, will find much greater facility in supplying her exigencies.
Spain derives great wealth from her mines, but not so great as is generally imagined. Of late years the profit to government is essentially diminished. Commerce and industry are the best means of a nation; both which are wanting to her. I am told her treasury is far from being so well filled as we have flattered ourselves. She is also much divided on the propriety of the war. There is a strong party against it. The temper of the nation is too sluggish to admit of great exertions; and, though the Courts of the two Kingdoms are closely linked together, there never has been in any of their wars a perfect harmony of measures, nor has it been the case in this; which has already been no small detriment to the common cause.
I mention these things to show, that the circumstances of our allies, as well as our own, call for peace; to obtain which we must make one great effort this campaign. The present instance of the friendship of the court of France is attended with every circumstance, that can render it important and agreeable, that can interest our gratitude or fire our emulation. If we do our duty, we may even hope to make the campaign decisive on this continent. But we must do our duty in earnest, or disgrace and ruin will attend us. I am sincere in declaring a full persuasion, that the succor will be fatal to us, if our measures are not adequate to the emergency.1
Now, my dear Sir, I must observe to you, that much will depend on the State of Pennsylvania. She has it in her power to contribute, without comparison, more to our success than any other State, in the two essential articles of flour and transportation. New York, Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland are our flour countries. Virginia went little on this article the last crop, (and her resources are called for to the southward). New York, by Legislative coercion, has already given all she could spare for the use of the army. Her inhabitants are left with scarcely a sufficiency for their own subsistence. Jersey, from being so long the place of the army’s residence, is equally exhausted. Maryland has made great exertions, but she can still do something more. Delaware may contribute handsomely in proportion to her extent. But Pennsylvania is our chief dependence. From every information I can obtain, she is at this time full of flour. I speak to you in the language of frankness and as a friend. I do not mean to make any insinuations unfavorable to the State. I am aware of the embarrassment the government labors under, from the open opposition of one party and the underhand intrigues of another. I know that, with the best dispositions to promote the public service, you have been obliged to move with circumspection. But this is a time to hazard and to take a tone of energy and decision. All parties but the disaffected will acquiesce in the necessity and give their support. The hopes and fears of the people at large may be acted upon in such a manner, as to make them approve and second your views. The matter is reduced to a point. Either Pennsylvania must give us all the aid we ask of her, or we can undertake nothing. We must renounce every idea of coöperation, and must confess to our allies, that we look wholly to them for our safety. This will be a state of humiliation and littleness, against which the feelings of every good American ought to revolt. Yours I am convinced will; nor have I the least doubt, that you will employ all your influence to animate the legislature and the people at large. The fate of these States hangs upon it. God grant we may be properly impressed with the consequences.
I wish the legislature could be engaged to vest the executive with Plenipotentiary powers. I should then expect every thing practicable from your abilities and zeal. This is not a time for formality or ceremony. The crisis, in every point of view, is extraordinary; and extraordinary expedients are necessary. I am decided in this opinion.1 I am happy to hear, that you have a prospect of complying with the requisitions of Congress for specific supplies; that the spirit of the City and State seems to revive, and the warmth of party decline. These are good omens of our success. Perhaps this is the proper period to unie. I am obliged to you for the renewal of your assurances of personal regard. My sentiments for you, you are too well acquainted with to make it necessary to tell you with how much esteem and regard I am, dr. Sir, &c.
P. S.—I felicitate you on the increase of your family. Mrs. Washington does the same, and begs her particular respects and congratulations to Mrs. Reed to which permit me to add mine.
TO THE HON. COMMITTEE OF COÖPERATION.
Head Quarters, 31 May, 1780.
In the expected coöperation it is of great Moment that we should proceed with Circumspection and on the surest ground—Before we can determine what ought to be undertaken, we should be able to appreciate the means we shall have it in our power to employ—on some precise scale. To begin an enterprise against New York for instance, on a general presumption of sufficient resources in the Country, or proportionable exertions in the respective governments to bring them forth, would hardly be justified by success—could never be defended in case of misfortune, to say nothing of the fatal consequences that might ensue. It appears to me necessary to ascertain the number of men and the quantity of supplies which the States are capable of furnishing in a given time, and to obtain assurances from them founded in experience of their continuing supplies in the same proportion.
I esteem the plan adopted by the Committee in their circular letter an extremely good preparatory one. But I think it of indispensable importance in the next place to come to some thing fixed and determinate. I therefore take the Liberty to submit to the Committee the necessity and propriety of calling immediately upon the States, for aids of men, provisions, forage, and the means of transportation.
To enable them to judge of the number of men we shall want the following observations may be of use.
Our arrangements should be made on the principle of the greatest enterprize we can undertake and against the whole force of the enemy united—that is an enterprize against N. York with the Troops acting to the Southward added to its present garrison.
The enemy’s force at New York on this supposition cannot be estimated lower than fifteen thousand regular Troops—besides Refugees & Militia which are said to amount to four or five thousand, but let the whole be estimated at 17,500.
Double this number is the least we can ask to operate against it—that is 35,000 effective men, besides two small Corps, the one at West-point, the other in the Jerseys for Covering our Communications and attacking Powles Hook, if the enemy retain possession of that Post—In Europe to besiege Troops in fortified places, the proportion of men necessary is computed at six to one in favor of the besiegers. We cannot ask less than two to one against N. York—allowing us the command of the water which will be a material advantage.
The Corps of French Troops will probably not exceed on their arrival five thousand effective men—the residue of 30,000 must be furnished by us, together with about fifteen hundred for the two detachments above mentioned.
To have this effective force our total at the lowest calculation cannot be less than 40,000 rank and file.
The Battalions in this quarter compleated by drafts as recommended by the Committee in their circular Letter, will amount to 22,680—the Ballance of 17,320 must consist of Militia.
These must be furnished by the States from New Hampshire to Maryland inclusive according to the proximity and ability of each. It is proposed that they be assembled at appointed places of rendezvous by the last of June—to serve for three, or at least two months after Joining the Army.
I have had estimates formed, which are inclosed for the Consideration of the Committee, of the Quantity of provisions requisite for the supply of an Army of 40,000 men for a month—of forage for the same period—and of horses and waggons for the Campaign attached to the Army; other estimates are annexed apportioning these to the States from New Hampshire to Virginia inclusive having regard to the resources of each and their relative position to the probable scene of our operations.
My idea is to call upon those States to furnish their quotas by the last of June and to give explicit information how far it will be in their power to keep up the supply in the same proportion to the last of November.
This brings the business to a point. The States must either give us what we want in the time required—or manifest their inability to do it, and we can take our measures accordingly—Particular commonly make a livelier impression than general ideas—If we only urge the States to adopt a plan for bringing forth all its resources, they may proceed on some vague notion of the extent of our wants and satisfy themselves with arrangement which though ample enough to be plausible may yet fall far short of the object—If we make a demand of definite aids, they will have a fixed point to regulate themselves by and their measures will be equal to it, if they are in a condition to command the means. In my opinion requisitions of this nature will at once serve to guide and stimulate. At any rate their operation will inform us what we have to expect and what we ought to do.
I have one doubt of the expediency of immediately calling for the Militia, which is that it may possibly operate to the prejudice of the proposed draft for the Continental Battalions—But there is in all probability so little space between this and the execution of our projects that we seem to have not a moment to lose—I am clear in the expediency of asking specific supplies.
It appears to me essential that there should be a perfect understanding on all hands—that the States should know our wants—what is expected by us—that we should know their abilities—and what we may expect from them. I should not fear to discourage by alarming them with the largeness of our demands, if it could be supposed they would not bear the knowledge of our wants, we could not flatter ourselves they would supply them. But their wisdom and patriotism will certainly do every thing their resources will permit.
If the Committee should desire a conference on these subjects; I shall do myself the honor to attend them whenever and wherever they please. With perfect respect, &c.1
TO JOSEPH JONES, IN CONGRESS.
Morristown, 31 May, 1780.
I have been honored with your favor in answer to my letter respecting the appointment of a committee, with two others of later dates. * * * Certain I am, unless Congress speak in a more decisive tone, unless they are vested with powers by the several States competent to the great purposes of war, or assume them as matter of right, and they and the States respectively act with more energy than they hitherto have done, that our cause is lost. We can no longer drudge on in the old way. By ill timing the adoption of measures, by delays in the execution of them, or by unwarrantable jealousies, we incur enormous expenses and derive no benefit from them. One State will comply with a requisition of Congress; another neglects to do it; a third executes it by halves; and all differ either in the manner, the matter, or so much in point of time, that we are always working up hill, and ever shall be; and, while such a system as the present one or rather want of one prevails, we shall ever be unable to apply our strength or resources to any advantage.
This, my dear Sir, is plain language to a member of Congress; but it is the language of truth and friendship. It is the result of long thinking, close application, and strict observation. I see one head gradually changing into thirteen. I see one army branching into thirteen, which, instead of looking up to Congress as the supreme controlling power of the United States, are considering themselves as dependent on their respective States. In a word, I see the powers of Congress declining too fast for the consideration and respect, which are due to them as the great representative body of America, and I am fearful of the consequences.
Till your letter of the 23d came to hand, I thought General Weedon had actually resigned his commission; but, be this as it may, I see no possibility of giving him a command out of the line of his own State. He certainly knows, that every State that has troops enough to form a brigade, claims and has uniformly exercised the privilege of having them commanded by a brigadier of their own. Nor is it in my power to depart from this system, without convulsing the army, which at all times is hurtful, and at this it might be ruinous. I am sincerely and affectionately yours, etc.1
TO THE CHEVALIER DE LA LUZERNE.
Morristown, 5 June, 1780.
My time has been so entirely engrossed in the preliminary arrangements of immediate necessity towards the intended coöperation, that I have not been able till now to do myself the honor to thank your Excellency for your letter of the 21st of May. We have too many proofs of the generous zeal of your countrymen in the cause of America, not to be entirely convinced of it, and to feel all that the most grateful sensibility can inspire. I am happy in believing, that the troops and citizens of these States will eagerly embrace every opportunity to manifest their affection to the troops and citizens of your nation, as well as their gratitude and veneration to a prince, from whom they have received the most important benefits. Penetrated with a sense of these, I shall think it my duty to cultivate correspondent sentiments, as far as my influence extends.1
The Marquis has given me an account of all your Excellency has done for the advancement of the combined operations. It will no doubt contribute essentially to their success, and give you a claim to the acknowledgments of the two countries. I am too sensible of the value of the permission you give me, to solicit your aid in every thing in which you can continue to afford us your good offices, not to make use of it as frequently as possible. I begin by entreating you to favor me with your advice with the greatest freedom, on whatever occurs to you interesting to our affairs at this period. I have the honor to be, etc.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL HOWE.
Hd. Qrs., Heights aboveSpringfield,
I have received your several letters of the 5th, 6th and 8th of June.
You do well to consider the post of West point as the capital object of your attention, and every other as secondary. This is peculiarly necessary at the present moment, as there are circumstances that authorize a suspicion of something being intended against that post. I would therefore have you by all means keep your force collected in such manner, that there may not be a possibility of your being found in a divided state, in case of a sudden movement of the enemy your way.1
General Kniphausen, (we have reason to believe,) with all the force that he could spare from New York, made an incursion into the Jerseys the night of the 6th instant, and proceeded early next morning towards Connecticut Farms, about five miles from Elizabeth Town. In the night of the 7th he retired to the point of his debarkation beyond Elizabeth Town, where he has remained ever since and has been crossing and recrossing his cavalry and baggage. His whole conduct is inexplicable, and begins to have much the air of an amusement. T’ is probable Clinton, with the whole or a part of the troops under his command, is momently expected at New York; and the present movement may be intended to draw our attention this way, while he on his arrival pushes immediately up the North River and attacks the forts, united with what troops still remain in New York.
The day Kniphausen moved out, he was very severely galled by an advanced corps of Continental troops, and the Jersey militia, who have turned out and acted with admirable spirit on this occasion. We conjectured at first, that his coming out was to forage or to draw us down into the plain and give us battle. But, as he did not pursue the first, and he must have seen that we shall not fight him but upon our own terms, we cannot see why he should remain in his present position so long. We are therefore led to the other conjecture respecting you. Use all possible vigilance and caution. It is not improbable Clinton’s brigade may shortly reinforce you. The enemy have a good many cavalry, and we have none here. You will despatch immediately Moylan’s Regiment to join us. Sheldon’s will continue with you. His infantry on an emergency may be thrown into the garrison.1 * * *
TO THE COMMITTEE OF COÖPERATION.
It appears to me to be a very eligible step, at the present Juncture to reiterate our instances with the several States, to engage them to press the measures recommended in your former letter. Not only the time is sliding away very fast, every moment of which ought to be improved for the intended coöperation, but the movements of the enemy demand every exertion in our power for the purposes of defence.
There can now remain no doubt that Charlestown and its garrison have fallen. There is every reason to believe that Sir Henry Clinton, with the whole or the greatest part of his force, will shortly arrive in New York. The expectation of the French fleet and army will certainly determine the enemy to unite their force. General Knyphausen still continues in the Jerseys with all the force which can be spared from New York; a force greatly superior to ours. Should Sir Henry join him the superiority will be decided, and equal to almost any thing the enemy may think proper to attempt. It is true they are at this time inactive, but their continuance where they are proves that they have some project of importance in contemplation. Perhaps they are only waiting till the militia grow tired and return home (which they are doing every hour) to prosecute their designs with less opposition. This would be a critical moment for us. Perhaps they are waiting the arrival of Sir Henry Clinton, either to push up the North River against the Highland posts or to bend their whole force against the army. In either case the most disastrous consequences are to be apprehended. You who are well acquainted with our situation need no arguments to evince the danger. The militia of this State have run to arms and behaved with an ardor and spirit of which there are few examples. But perseverance in enduring the rigors of military service is not to be expected from those who are not by profession obliged to it. The reverse of this opinion has been a great misfortune in our affairs, and it is high time we should recover from an error of so pernicious a nature. We must absolutely have a force of a different composition, or we must relinquish the contest. In a few days we may expect to have to depend almost wholly on our Continental force, and this (from your own observation) is totally inadequate to our safety. The exigency calls loudly upon the States to carry all the recommendations of the Committee into the most vigorous and immediate execution, but more particularly that of completing our battalions by a draft, and with all the expedition possible.
I beg leave to advise that these ideas be all clearly held up to the States. Whatever inconvenience there may be in diffusing the knowledge of our circumstances, delicate as they are, there is, in my opinion, more danger in concealing than disclosing them. I have the honor to be, &c.
TO GOVERNOR LIVINGSTON.
Springfield, 18 June, 1780.
I have received advice, which appears to be direct, that the legislature of this State has determined on a draft from the militia to serve for the campaign under their own officers, instead of being incorporated with their Continental battalions. This mode, if adopted, will be attended with so many inconveniences if followed by the States in general, and will be so absolutely pernicious to all the prospects of the campaign, that I cannot forbear taking the liberty to send Brigadier-General Knox to represent, on my part, the ill consequences of the measure, and the superior advantages of the plan recommended in preference. I entreat your Excellency to procure him the honor of a conference with the legislature for this purpose. The crisis is so delicate and important, the honor and interest of these States so essentially depend on a judicious and vigorous exertion of our resources at this juncture, that I cannot but manifest my anxiety, when I see any measures in agitation that threaten the disappointment of our hopes, and take every step in my power to prevent their being carried into execution. In military questions, the officers of the army have a right to flatter themselves their country will place some confidence in their experience and judgment; and it is the policy of every wise nation to do it. I cannot doubt, that, on consideration, the zeal and wisdom, which have distinguished the councils of this State, will embrace what the true interest of America on this occasion demands. I have the honor to be, with every sentiment of respect and esteem, your Excellency’s most obedient servant.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL HOWE.1
Springfield, 20 June, 1780.
I have recd. your favors of the 16th and 18th, two of each date. The Express who brought the last, left King’s ferry yesterday at sunrise and informs me that the Vessels had gone down the river and were out of sight.
The posts at Stony and Verplanck’s Points were established more with a view of preventing the communication from being interrupted by a vessel or two with a small body of men, than from an expectation that they would be able to stand a regular investiture or a serious attack in force. The officers, therefore, who command them, should be directed to govern themselves by appearances and circumstances. If the enemy come up in force, they will be under the necessity of making such demonstration, by the number of their Vessels and other preparations, as will evince their design. The officers are then to withdraw their Garrisons at all events, and Cannon and Stores if possible. To give them the better chance of effecting the latter, Boats should be constantly kept at each place, appropriated to that service only. There is a bare possibility, that the enemy may throw a force suddenly in the rear of each, and run a Vessel above them. In such case the best defence that the places will admit of must be made; and, to provide for such a contingency, let ten or twelve days’ provision be kept in each post, and a supply of Ammunition equal to an expenditure of that time. I would not wish the officers to set fire to the Works, if upon any occasion they should be obliged to leave them; because they may perhaps be induced to quit them upon appearances seemingly well grounded, and therefore, if left intire, they may return to them when the Alarm is over. If the officers at present commanding at Stony and Verplanck’s Points are men of discretion, it will be best to let them remain, with directions not to disclose their instructions to any person whatever; because, should the enemy obtain a knowledge of them, they might, by making feints, manœuvre them out of the posts. * * *
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
The Honorable the Committee will have informed Congress from time to time of the measures which have been judged essential to be adopted for coöperating with the Armament expected from France, and of their requisitions to the States in consequence. What the result of these has been, I cannot determine to my great anxiety, as no answers on the subjects of them have been yet received. The period is come when we have every reason to expect the Fleet will arrive and yet, for want of this point of primary consequence, it is impossible for me to form or fix on a system of coöperation. I have no basis to act upon—and of course were this generous succor of our Ally now to arrive—I should find myself in the most awkward, embarrassing, and painful situation. The General and the Admiral from the relation in which I stand, as soon as they approach our coast, will require of me a plan of the measures to be persued—and there ought of right to be one prepared; but circumstanced as I am I cannot even give them conjectures. From these considerations I have suggested to the Committee, by a letter I had the honor of addressing them yesterday,1 the indispensable necessity of their writing again to the States, urging them to give immediate and precise information of the measures they have taken—and of the result. The interest of the States—the honor and reputation of our Councils—the justice and gratitude due our Allies—a regard to myself—all require that I should without delay, be enabled to ascertain and inform them what we can or cannot undertake. There is a point which ought now to be determined, on which the success of all our future operations may depend, which, for want of knowing our prospects, I am altogether at a loss what to do in. For fear of involving the Fleet and Army of our Allies in circumstances, which, if not seconded by us, would expose them to material inconvenience and hazard, I shall be compelled to suspend it, and the delay may be fatal to our hopes.
Besides the embarrassments I have mentioned above and upon former occasions—there is another of a very painful and humiliating nature. We have no shirts, from the best inquiries I can make, to distribute to the Troops, when the whole are in great want, and when a great part of them are absolutely destitute of any at all. Their situation too with respect to Summer overalls I fear is not likely to be much better. There are a good many on hand at Springfield it is said, but so indifferent in their quality, as to be scarcely worth the expence and trouble of transportation and delivery. For the Troops to be without cloathing at any time, is highly injurious to the service and distressing to our feelings; but the want will be more peculiarly mortifying when they come to act with those of our allies. If it is possible I have no doubt immediate measures will be taken to relieve their distress. It is also most sincerely to be wished that there could be some supplies of Cloathing furnished for the officers. There are a great many whose condition is really miserable still and in some instances it is the case with almost whole State lines. It would be well for their own sakes—and for the Public good—if they could be furnished. When our Friends come to coöperate with us—they will not be able to go on the common routine of duty—and if they should, they must be held from their appearance, in low estimation.
I have been successively honored with your Excellency’s favors of the 5th, 6th, 12th, 13th & 15th Insts. with their respective inclosures—The hurry of business has prevented my answering them sooner.—
I am unhappy to inform your Excellency, that a spirit of great dissatisfaction has prevailed of late among the Troops garrisoning Fort Schuyler; and that from my latest accounts from thence—it was far from having subsided when they were dispatched. The want of pay and of necessary Cloathing—particularly shirts, is assigned as the primary cause. Matters have been carried so far, as for thirty-one men to go off in a body for Oswagachee. They were pursued by Lieut. Hardenberg with a party of the Oneidas called in and detached for the purpose, and sixteen of them overtaken on the evening of the second day’s pursuit, just as they were about crossing Grand River (15 having already passed it). A fire was immediately commenced by the whole party against Mr. Hardenberg, who found himself under the necessity of returning it by which thirteen of the sixteen on this side were killed. The fifteen that had passed escaped. I mean if possible to relieve the garrison with a part of the men lately raised for frontier service in the State of New York, and have written to His Excellency Governor Clinton upon the subject—as I had done previous to the incursion made by Sir John Johnson, which at least rendered the measure impracticable for the time. I am in hopes by the 15th, that the hundred Barrels of flour which I ordered from Morris Town and forty Barrels of Beef arrived at Fort Schuyler, as they were under the care of a strong escort; and from the importance of the post and of having it tolerably secure on this head, during the Campaign, I have directed a Hundred Barrels more, both of Flour and Meat, to be forwarded to Albany immediately—to go under convoy of the intended relief for the Garrison. This quantity with the provision already there and such fresh Supplies as may be possibly collected in aid of the salt will, I trust, hold out till matters are in a Situation to admit of a further and seasonable supply—
In my letter of the 18th I advised Congress of the arrival of the Fleet from the Southward. I have since heard that both Sir Henry Clinton and Admiral Arbuthnot have returned. Accounts say they have brought a considerable part of the Southern Army with them. The Enemy remain in the same position at Elizabeth Town Point. Six of the Enemy’s Ships—one a frigate ran up the North River in sight of Verplancks point on the 18th, but they have fallen down again. I dont know the object they have in view in this maneuvre, or indeed of their present conduct; but if they have any designs against West point, a matter I have apprehended, I hope the precautions I have taken and am pursuing will defeat all their efforts. It is a misfortune that we have several important objects to attend to, and but a very small force with which to do it. However the best that can shall be done. I have, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Since I had the honor of addressing Congress on the 20th, the following movements have taken place on the part of the Enemy and on our part. The conduct of the Enemy and our intelligence giving us reason to suspect a design against West Point, on the 21st the army, except two Brigades and the Horse (left under the command of General Greene to cover the country and our stores,) was put in motion to proceed slowly towards Pompton. On the 22d it arrived at Rockaway Bridge, about eleven miles from Morris Town. The day following, the enemy moved in force from Elizabeth Town towards Springfield. They were opposed with great conduct and spirit by Major-Generals Greene and Dickinson, with the Continental Troops and such of the militia as were assembled; but, with their superiority of numbers, they of course gained Springfield, burnt the Village, and retired the same day to their former position. In the night they abandoned it, crossed over to Staten Island, and took up their bridge. I beg leave to refer Congress to General Greene’s report for particulars.
The Enemy advanced on this occasion with so serious an aspect, that we were compelled to act upon the supposition of their menacing our stores. A Brigade was detached to fall in with their right flank, and the army moved back towards Morris Town five or six miles, to be more in supporting distance. On receiving intelligence of the Enemy’s withdrawing from the Point, all the Troops were put under marching orders for the North River; but the weather prevented them from commencing their march before this morning.
The late movements of the Enemy seem to have no satisfactory solution but an enterprise against West Point. Our last advices look strongly to the same object, yet there are many powerful reasons against it. But as we are now in a great degree rid of the incumbrance of our stores by the measures taken to remove them, prudence demands that our dispositions should be principally relative to West Point.1 We shall do every thing in our power for its security; and, in spite of the peculiar embarrassments of our situation, I hope not without success. The enemy have not made their incursions into this State without loss. Ours has been small. The militia deserve every thing that can be said on both occasions. They flew to arms universally, and acted with a spirit equal to any thing I have seen in the course of the war. With every sentiment of respect I have the honor to be, &c.1 * * *
TO PRESIDENT REED.
* * * * * *
I very much admire the patriotic spirit of the Ladies of Philada., and shall with great pleasure give them my advice, as to the application of their benevolent and generous donation to the soldiers of the Army. Altho’ the terms of the Association seem in some measure to preclude the purchase of any Article, which the public is bound to find, I would nevertheless recommend a provision of shirts, in preference to any thing else, in case the fund should amount to a sum equivalent to a supply of eight or ten thousand. The soldiery are exceedingly in want of them, and the public have never, for several years past, been able to procure a sufficient quantity to make them comfortable. They are, besides, more capable of an equal and satisfactory distribution than almost any other Article. Should the fund fall short of a supply of the number of shirts I have mentioned, perhaps there could be no better application of the money, than laying it out in the purchase of refreshments for the Hospitals. These are my ideas at present. When I have the pleasure of hearing more particularly from Mrs. Reed, I shall probably be able to form a more complete opinion.1
I shall, agreeably to your Excellency’s request, send down a few officers to take charge of and bring forward the drafts. As to the business of recruiting by voluntary enlistments, you may be assured, that its operation, if attended with any tolerable success in the end, will be too slow to answer our present purposes. I would therefore most earnestly recommend to you to place no dependence upon any such measure; but, by an immediate augmentation of drafts, supply the men required from Pennsylvania by the Committee of Congress. They make so considerable a part of the force estimated as necessary to give a probability of certainty to our expected operations, that they cannot be dispensed with.1 Be kind enough to deliver the enclosed to Mrs. Washington. I am infinitely obliged to your Excellency and to Mrs. Reed for your polite attention to her. I have the honor to be, &c.
TO ROBERT R. LIVINGSTON, IN CONGRESS.
Ramapo, 29 June, 1780.
I have had the honor to receive your favor from Trenton, and thank you for the aid you have been pleased to afford in getting the provisions and stores removed from that place. Happily for us, the transportation is in a better train, and in greater forwardness, than I had reason a few days ago to expect it would be at this time. I am under no apprehension now of danger to the post at West Point, on the score either of provisions, the strength of the works, or of the garrison. I am sorry, however, to find there are apprehensions on account of the commandant, and that my knowledge of him does not enable me to form any decisive judgment of his fitness to command; but, as General McDougall and Baron Steuben, men of approved bravery, are both with him, and the main army is within supporting distance, I confess I have no fear on the ground of what I presume is suspected. To remove him, therefore, under these circumstances, and at this period, must be too severe a wound to the feelings of any officer, to be given but in cases of real necessity. When a general arrangement is gone into, and a disposition made for the campaign, I can with propriety, and certainly shall, bring him into the line of the army, and place the general you have named at that post, if the operations of the campaign are such as to render it expedient to leave an officer of his rank in that command.1
If the States mean to put the army in a condition to adopt any offensive plan, the period cannot be far off when this measure must take place. Your sentiments, my dear Sir, upon this occasion required no apology. The opinion and advice of friends I receive at all times as a proof of their friendship, and am thankful when they are offered. I am so well persuaded of the safety of West Point, the necessity of easing the militia as much as possible, and of husbanding our provisions and stores, that I have dismissed all the militia, that were called in for the defence of the posts on the North River. With the greatest esteem and regard, I have the honor to be, &c.
TO GOVERNOR WEARE.
Ramapough, 30 June, 1780.
I send Brigadier General Stark to your state, to collect and forward the drafts for your battallions, and the levies for three months to the appointed place of rendezvous. The zeal, which the State of New Hampshire has always manifested gives me the fullest confidence, that they have complied with the requisitions of the committee of Congress in all their extent; though we have not yet heard from thence what measures have been taken. This is the time for America, by one great exertion, to put an end to the war; but for this purpose the necessary means must be furnished. The basis of every thing else is the completion of the continental battalions to their full establishment. If this is not done, I think it my duty to forewarn every state, that nothing decisive can be attempted, and that this campaign, like all the former, must be chiefly defensive. I am sorry to observe, that some of the states have taken up the business on a less extensive scale. The consequences have been represented with candor and plainness, and I hope for the honor and safety of America, the representation may have the weight it deserves.
The drafts cannot be forwarded with too much expedition; but as to the militia, under present appearances, I think it advisable to suspend the time fixed for their rendezvousing to the 25th of the next month, at which period, I shall be glad they may be without fail at the place appointed; and it would be my wish, that they should come out under the command of General Stark.
I entreat your excellency to employ all your influence to give activity and vigor to the measures of your state. Every thing depends on the proper improvement of the present conjuncture; we have every thing to hope on one side, and every thing to fear on the other. With perfect respect, &c.
P. S. The suspension of the period for assembling the militia, is founded on the French fleet not being arrived; if this event should have taken place before this reaches your excellency, the suspension is not to have effect. The militia cannot be too soon at the place of rendezvous, after the fleet arrives.—
TO PRESIDENT REED.
My Dear Sir,
Motives of friendship not less than of public good, induce me with freedom to give you my sentiments on a matter, which interests you personally as well as the good of the common cause. I flatter myself you will receive what I say in the same spirit which dictates it, and that it will have all the influence circumstances will possibly permit.
The Legislature of Pennsylvania has vested you, in case of necessity, with a power of declaring Martial Law throughout the State, to enable you to take such measures as the exigency may demand. So far the Legislature has done its part. Europe, America, the State itself, will look to you for the rest. The power vested in you will admit of all the latitude, that could be desired, and may be made to mean any thing, the public safety may require. If it is not exerted proportionably, you will be responsible for the consequences. Nothing, my dear Sir, can be more delicate and critical than your situation; a full discretionary power lodged in your hands in conjunction with the Council; great expectations in our allies and in the People of this country; ample means in the State for great exertions of every kind; a powerful party on one hand to take advantage of every opening to prejudice you, on the other popular indolence and avarice, averse to every measure inconsistent with present ease and present interest. In this dilemma, there is a seeming danger whatever side you take; it remains to choose that, which has least real danger and will best promote the public weal. This in my opinion clearly is to exert the powers entrusted to you with a boldness and vigor suited to the emergency.
In general I esteem it a good maxim, that the best way to preserve the confidence of the people durably is to promote their true interest. There are particular exigencies when this maxim has peculiar force. When any great object is in view, the popular mind is roused into expectation, and prepared to make sacrifices both of ease and property. If those, to whom they confide the management of their affairs, do not call them to make these sacrifices, and the object is not attained, or they are involved in the reproach of not having contributed as much as they ought to have done towards it, they will be mortified at the disappointment, they will feel the censure, and their resentment will rise against those, who, with sufficient authority, have omitted to do what their interest and their honor required. Extensive powers not exercised as far as was necessary have, I believe, scarcely ever failed to ruin the possessor. The Legislature and the People in your case, would be very glad to excuse themselves by condemning you. You would be assailed with blame from every quarter, and your enemies would triumph.
The party opposed to you in the Government are making great efforts. I am told the bank, established for supplying the army, is principally under the auspices of that party. It will undoubtedly give them great credit with the People, and you have no effectual way to counterbalance this, but by employing all your influence and authority to render services proportioned to your station. Hitherto I confess to you frankly, my dear Sir, I do not think your affairs are in the train which might be wished; and if Pennsylvania does not do its part fully, it is of so much importance in the general scale, that we must fail of success, or limit our views to mere defence. I have conversed with some gentlemen on the measure of filling your battalions. They seemed to think you could not exceed what the Legislature had done for this purpose. I am of very different sentiment. The establishment of Martial Law implies, in my judgment, the right of calling any part of your citizens into military service, and in any manner which may be found expedient; and I have no doubt the draft may be executed.
I write to you with the freedom of friendship, and I hope you will esteem it the truest mark I could give you of it. In this view, whether you think my observations well founded or not, the motive will, I am persuaded, render them agreeable. In offering my respects to Mrs. Reed I must be permitted to accompany them with a tender of my very warm acknowledgments to her and you for the civilities and attention both of you have been pleased to show Mrs. Washington,—and for the honor you have done me in calling the young Christian by my name. With the greatest regard, I am, dear Sir, &c.
TO FIELDING LEWIS.
* * * * * *
The Gazettes will have given you an account of the enemy’s movements on the 7th and 23d of last month from Elizabethtown-point, and of their having taken post there from the one date to the other; there can be no occasion therefore to detail the account in this place; but I may lament in the bitterness of my soul, that the fatal policy which has pervaded all our measures from the beginning of the war, and which no experience however dear bought can change, should have reduced our army to so low an ebb, as not to have given a more effectual opposition to those movements than we did; or that we should be obliged to be removing our stores from place to place to keep them out of the way of the enemy instead of driving that enemy from our country—but our weakness invited these insults, and why they did not attempt at least to do more than they did, I cannot conceive. Nor will it be easy to make any one at the distance of 400 miles believe that our army, weakened as it is by the expiration of men’s enlistments, should at times be five or six days together without meat—then as many without bread—and once or twice, two or three days together without either—and that, in the same army, there should be numbers of men with scarcely as much cloathing as would cover their nakedness, and at least a fourth of the whole with not even the shadow of a blanket, severe as the winter has been. Under these circumstances it is no difficult matter to conceive what a time I must have had to keep up appearances and prevent the most disastrous consequences.
It may be asked how these things have come to pass? the answer is plain—and may be ascribed to the want of system, not to say foresight—originally (if it is not still the case with some) to a fatal jealousy (under our circumstances) of a standing army—by which means we neglected to obtain soldiers for the war when zeal and patriotism run high, and men were eager to engage for a trifle or for nothing; the consequence of which has been that we have protracted the war—expended millions and tens of millions of pounds which might have been saved, and have a new army to raise and discipline once or twice a year, and with which we can undertake nothing because we have nothing to build upon, as the men are slipping from us every day by means of their expiring enlistments. To these fundamental errors, may be added another which I expect will prove our ruin, and that is the relinquishment of Congressional powers to the States individually—all the business is now attempted, for it is not done, by a timid kind of recommendation from Congress to the States; the consequence of which is, that instead of pursuing one uniform system, which in the execution shall corrispond in time and manner, each State undertakes to determine—
1st. Whether they will comply or not.
2nd. In what manner they will do it, and
3d. In what time—by which means scarcely any one measure is, or can be executed, while great expences are incurred and the willing and zealous States ruined. In a word our measures are not under the influence and direction of one council, but thirteen, each of which is actuated by local views and politics, without considering the fatal consequences of not complying with plans which the united wisdom of America in its representative capacity have digested, or the unhappy tendency of delay, mutilation or alteration. I do not scruple to add, and I give it decisively as my opinion—that unless the States will content themselves with a full and well-chosen representation in Congress and vest that body with absolute powers in all matters relative to the great purposes of war, and of general concern (by which the States unitedly are affected, reserving to themselves all matters of local and internal polity for the regulation of order and good government) we are attempting an impossibility, and very soon shall become (if it is not already the case) a many-headed monster—a heterogenious mass—that never will or can steer to the same point. The contest among the different States now is not which shall do most for the common cause—but which shall do least, hence arise disappointments and delay, one State waiting to see what another will or will not do, through fear of doing too much, and by their deliberations, alterations, and sometimes refusals to comply with the requisitions of Congress, after that Congress spent months in reconciling (as far as it is possible) jarring interests, in order to frame their resolutions, as far as the nature of the case will admit, upon principles of equality.
There is another source from whence much of our present distress, and past difficulties have flowed, and that is the hope and expectation which seizes the States, and Congress toward the close of every year, that Peace must take place in the Winter—This never fails to produce an apathy which lulls them into ease and security, and involves the most distressing consequences at the opening of every campaign. We may rely upon it that we shall never have Peace till the enemy are convinced that we are in a condition to carry on the war. It is no new maxim in politics that for a nation to obtain Peace, or insure it, it must be prepared for war.
But it is time for me to recollect myself and quit a subject which would require a folio volume to illucidate, and expose the folly of our measures. To rectify past blunders is impossible, but we might profit by the experience of them, tho’ even here I doubt, as I am furnished with many instances to the contrary. * * *
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
I have with great pleasure seen the very laudable association of the merchants of Philadelphia, for procuring a quantity of provisions and rum for the army. I am well persuaded that the same spirit exists in those of the other considerable trading towns, who perhaps only want being made acquainted with the distresses of the army, in articles almost as essential as those of provision, to produce similar associations for the purpose of providing such matters as may be recommended to them.
We are so scantily supplied with marquees, and tents, and have so little prospect of procuring a sufficient number by the common means, that some gentlemen have suggested the propriety and expediency of an address to the merchants, from New London to Portsmouth inclusive, requesting their assistance at this critical time, and giving them the same assurances of reimbursement which have been given to the merchants of Philadelphia. By the estimates of the Quartermaster-General, a sum not exceeding forty thousand pounds lawful money, would make a sufficient provision for marquees, tents, knapsacks and some other articles in that way, and should the mode I have hinted be thought advisable, he would furnish the proportions which each town should, in his opinion, be requested to provide. Some private letters have, I believe, been written to the principal trading gentlemen to the eastward on this subject, which may perhaps produce an offer on their part; but I am so exceedingly anxious on account of the backward state of our preparations of every kind, that I cannot help recommending an application to them, notwithstanding, by Congress collectively, or through their own delegates, as may be judged most proper.
I observe that by the present regulations of the Bank of Philadelphia, the funds are to be applied solely to the purchases of rum and provision. But if an application of part of them could be diverted to the purchase of tents, (the materials for making which I am told are plenty in Philadelphia,) it would add to our stock in a very little time. The Committee of Co-operation have already recommended this deviation, and I beg leave to express my concurrence with them. I have the honor, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
I now beg leave to inform Congress that since my Letter of the 4th I have attended to their despatches of the 25th Ulto. by General Lincoln.
At this time I do not think, that the circumstances of the Campaign would admit at any rate an inquiry to be gone into respecting the loss of Charles Town; but, if it were otherwise, I do not see that it could be made, so as to be completely satisfactory either to General Lincoln or to the Public, without some gentlemen could be present, who have been acting in that quarter.1 This, it seems, would be necessary on the occasion, and the more so, as I have not a single document or paper in my possession concerning the Department, by which the Court could be enabled to form a right conclusion in the case. Whenever the business can be undertaken, I should apprehend it will be requisite for the Court to have before them such papers as Congress may have respecting the Department, and a Copy of the Instructions and orders, they may have been pleased to give General Lincoln from time to time, and of their correspondence. And, besides the reasons against the inquiry at this time, General Lincoln being a prisoner of war, his situation it appears to me must preclude one supposing every other obstacle were out of the question, until he is exchanged. If Congress think proper, they will be pleased to transmit me such papers as they may have, which concern the matters of inquiry, that there may be no delay in proceeding in the business when other circumstances will permit.
With respect to an exchange of prisoners, I most earnestly wish that Congress, apprized of our affairs in the fullest manner, and of the prospects of the campaign, had been pleased to determine the point themselves. But as they have not done it, and they have thought proper to refer it to me, I cannot but observe, if motives of policy are ever to prevail over those of humanity, they seem to apply at present against a general exchange. As to officers, their Exchange either on the principle of equal rank, or of composition, where that will not apply, confining the exchange on that of composition for officers only, is favored both by policy and humanity, and therefore in every point of light it is to be desired; and there is now a negotiation on foot between us and the Enemy in consequence of a late proposition from them for the exchange of all their officers, who are prisoners of war, and for such of those of the Convention (Generals Phillips, Riedesel, and their families excepted), as are in New York on parole, for an equal number of ours of their rank and in order of their captivity; which, if carried into effect, will give relief to a few. But the exchange of privates, though strongly urged by humanity, would certainly be against us in a political view. It would throw into the Enemy’s hands a very respectable permanent augmentation to their present force, already great, while it would add but inconsiderably to ours, as no small proportion of the Men, we should receive, would not belong to the Army, and many who should at the time, would probably be soon released from it by the expiration of their Enlistments. This is one among the innumerable ill consequences that result from short enlistments. Indeed, if the case were otherwise, and the whole of the privates, the Enemy have to exchange, were enlisted for the war, the advantages derived from an Exchange would not be equal at this time. These would be on the side of the Enemy, on the supposition that offensive operations will be prosecuted on our part, as every Man given them would in such case be equal to two received by us on the lowest scale of calculation. These considerations seem to make the release of the privates ineligible for the present; but Congress will decide themselves with respect to the business. If they think that their exchange should be deferred, or if we should not be able to effect that of the officers, I should hope every exertion, which our circumstances will authorize, will be made to render their situation easy and comfortable. They have a claim to this, and nothing in our power should be omitted to effect it.1
General Lincoln informed me, when he arrived here, that, from some correspondence which had passed between him and Sir Henry Clinton, he hoped his exchange might be effected for one of the major-generals of the Convention; and for this purpose he wrote to him just before his departure for Boston with my approbation. The proposition falls within the principle of equality of rank, by which exchanges between us hitherto have been governed; and his release will not be injurious to the claims of any other officer of ours in captivity, and therefore it appeared to me not objectionable. I hope it will be considered in the same light by Congress. I have the honor to be, &c.
P. S. I forgot to mention above that one of the Enemy’s late propositions extends to an exchange of the Privates in New York—This I could not effect in the severe weather in the beginning of February but a change of circumstances has since disposed them to think it expedient and to make the offer. They affect to place it on the mere footing of humanity.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL GREENE, QUARTERMASTER-GENERAL.
Head-Quarters, 14 July, 1780.
I have determined upon a plan of operations for the reduction of the City and Garrison of New York, which is to be carried on in conjunction with the french forces dayly expected from France. The number of Troops to be employed upon this occasion may be about forty thousand men. You are hereby directed, therefore, to make every necessary arrangement and provision in your Department for carrying the plan of operations into execution. You will apply to the States for what they are bound to furnish, agreeable to the several requisitions of Congress and their Committee at Camp. All such articles as the States are not bound to furnish, which will be necessary to go on with the operations, you will provide; and for this purpose you will apply to the Treasury board for the requisite supplies of Cash.
I have been in anxious expectation, that some plan would be determin’d for your Department; but, as it has not hitherto taken place, and as it is impossible to delay its operations a moment longer, waiting for such a plan, I am to desire, you will yourself arrange it in some effectual manner, to give despatch and efficacy to your measures equal to the exigency. Your knowledge and experience in the business will be sufficient to direct your conduct, without going into more particular instructions. It is my wish, your provisions should be ample, as nothing is more fatal to military operations, than a deficiency in the great Departments of the Army, and particularly in yours, which will be the hinge on which the whole enterprise must turn. The Honble. the Committee of Congress, in their applications to the States, have requested them to deliver the supplies raised, at such places as the Quartrmastr.-Genl. and the Commisy.-General should point out for the Articles in their respective departments. The committee informed me, that they had given you and Colonel Blaine information on this Head. But, if any thing remains to be done, you will immediately do it; and I should be glad, that you would see the commissary, Mr. Blaine, if present; if not, Mr. Stewart, to concert the arrangement with him.
I am informed, that there is at Albany a quantity of Plank and Timber, sufficient for constructing about forty Batteaux, which may be procured. If you have not a sufficiency of Boats, you will endeavour to procure the abovementioned plank and timber. General Schuyler will give you more particular information. I am, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
I have the honor to inform Congress, that I have this moment received a letter from Major General Heath, dated Providence on the 11th, informing that the afternoon of the 10th the French fleet arrived off Newport, that the signals of recognizance had been made, and the fleet was standing into the harbor when the express came away. I congratulate Congress on this important event, and entreat them to press every measure in their power to put us, as soon as possible, in a Condition to begin the intended co-operation with vigor and efficacy.
I enclose a plan, which, in conjunction with the Inspector-General I have framed for the consideration of Congress. It is indispensable the department should be put in full activity without loss of time. The speedier the decision, the better. A large additional allowance, at least nominally, for the Inspectors is proposed, but it is a very imperfect compensation for the additional trouble; and, unless some extra privileges and emoluments attend the office, it will not be undertaken by officers of rank and abilities.
I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE.
Head-Quarters, 15 July, 1780.
The Marquis de Lafayette will be pleased to communicate the following general ideas to Count de Rochambeau and Chevalier de Ternay, as the sentiments of the underwritten.
1. In any operation, and under all circumstances, a decisive naval superiority is to be considered as a fundamental principle, and the basis upon which every hope of success must ultimately depend.1
2. The advantages of possessing the port of New York, by the squadron of France, have been already enumerated to Count de Rochambeau and Chevalier de Ternay, and are so obvious, as not to need recapitulation. A delay in the execution of this enterprise may defeat all our projects, and render the campaign inactive and inglorious.
3. To render our operations nervous and rapid, it is essential for us to be masters of the nevigation of the North River and of the Sound. Without this, our land transportation will be great, our expenses enormous, and our progress slow if not precarious for want of forage and other means.
4. With these ideas, and upon this ground, it is conceived that many advantages will result from the French squadron’s taking possession of the inner harbor between Staten Island and the city of New York, and detaching a frigate or two above the chevaux-de-frise in the North River opposite Fort Washington, for the purpose of opening the navigation of the River, shortening the transportation by land on the upper and lower communication, and bringing the enemy to an explanation respecting Staten Island. Shipping so near the town would, at the same time they cover the frigates in the North River, keep the garrison in check, and be more likely to facilitate other movements of the army, than if they were to remain at the Hook or below the Narrows.
5. Our operations against the enemy in the city of New York may commence from either of three points, to wit, Morrisania, or the height near Kingsbridge, or Staten Island. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, but, under a full view of all circumstances, the preponderancy is in favor of Morrisania; especially since the aid of his Most Christian Majesty has come by the way of Rhode Island, instead of Cape Henry, as it was expected they would do, and touch at Sandy Hook, in consequence of advices lodged there.
6. As the means for carrying on our operations are not yet sufficiently appreciated, nor is the time by which our aids will arrive sufficiently ascertained, it is impossible to be precise as to the time the American troops can with safety rendezvous at Morrisania; but, as it is necessary to fix some epoch, it is hoped that it may happen by the 5th of August. I would propose that day for the reëmbarkation of the French efficient force at New London (if they should have come there), and that they proceed up the Sound to Whitestone on Long Island, or to such other place on that Island, or on the main, as circumstances may require, and the Count shall be advised of. For, the operations against the enemy depending very much upon their holding all or dismantling some of their present posts, and upon contingencies on our side, it is not possible at this time to mark out a precise plan, or determine whether our approaches to the city of New York shall be by the way of York Island, Brooklyn, or both. Numbers must determine the latter, and circumstances of the moment the former.
7. It must be clearly understood and agreed between the parties, that, if any capital operation is undertaken, the French fleet and land forces will at all events continue their aid until the success of the enterprise, or until it is mutually determined to abandon it.
8. In all matters of arrangement and accommodation, not repugnant to the foregoing ideas, the Marquis, in behalf of the United States, will consult the convenience and wishes of the Count and Chevalier, and will be pleased to assure them of the disposition I possess to make every thing as agreeable to them as possible, and of my desire to manifest on all occasions the high sense I entertain of their merit, and the generous aid they have brought to us.
TO COUNT DE ROCHAMBEAU.
I hasten to impart to you the happiness I feel at the welcome news of your arrival; and, as well in the name of the American army, as in my own, to present you with an assurance of our warmest sentiments for allies, who have so generously come to our aid. As a citizen of the United States, and as a soldier in the cause of liberty, I thankfully acknowledge this new mark of friendship from his Most Christian Majesty, and I feel a most grateful sensibility for the flattering confidence he has been pleased to honor me with on this occasion.
Among the obligations we are under to your Prince, I esteem it one of the first, that he has made choice, for the command of his troops, of a Gentleman whose high reputation and happy union of social qualities and military abilities promise me every public advantage and private satisfaction. I beg, Sir, that you will be the interpreter of my sentiments to the Gentlemen under your command. Be pleased to assure them, that, to the pleasure I anticipate of an acquaintance with them, I join the warmest desire to do every thing that may be agreeable to them and to the soldiers under their command. But in the midst of a war, the nature and difficulties of which are peculiar and uncommon, I cannot flatter myself in any way to recompense the sacrifices they have made, but by giving them such opportunities in the field of glory, as will enable them to display that gallantry and those talents, which we shall always be happy to acknowledge with applause.
The Marquis de Lafayette has been by me desired from time to time to communicate such intelligence, and make such propositions, as circumstances dictated. I think it so important, immediately to fix our plan of operations, and with as much secrecy as possible, that I have requested him to go himself to New London, where he will probably meet you. As a General officer, I have the greatest confidence in him; as a friend, he is perfectly acquainted with my sentiments and opinions. He knows all the circumstances of our army and the country at large. All the information he gives, and all the propositions he makes, I entreat you will consider as coming from me. I request you will settle all arrangements whatsoever with him; and I shall only add, that I shall exactly conform to the intentions of his Most Christian Majesty, as explained in the several papers put into my hands by his order, and signed by his ministers.
Permit me to refer you to the Marquis de Lafayette for more particular assurances of what I feel on this occasion, which I the more readily do, from a knowledge of his peculiar affection and regard for you. Impatiently waiting for the time when our operations will afford me the pleasure of a personal acquaintance with you, I have the honor to be, with the most perfect consideration, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL GREENE.
By despatches recd. the last evening from the Count de Rochambeau, I am informed, that the French Fleet and Army, consisting of eight ships of the Line, two Frigates, and two Bombs, and upwards of five thousand men, have arrived at Newport.1 This makes them rather inferior to the combined naval force of Arbuthnot and Graves; but, as a second division of ships and Land Forces (a circumstance you will keep to yourself) may be expected in a few weeks, it is probable we shall gain a superiority at sea by the time we can be ready to operate, as Count de Rochambeau is of opinion, that his land force will not be sufficiently recruited under four Weeks from the 12th instant. Should a superiority at Sea be established, it would lessen our land transportation in so considerable a degree, that little or no doubt would remain of our being able to keep up the requisite supply of provisions, Forage, and Military stores, during the time of an operation against New York. But, as that is a matter which cannot be ascertained, and as New York seems, for reasons which have presented themselves since the arrival of the Fleet, to be the only object we can attempt, it remains to be considered whether it will be possible to maintain an Army proportioned to such an undertaking, when wholly dependent upon a land transportation, aided by a contingent one by the way of the Sound.
In making your estimates, you are to observe, that the Directors of the Bank of Philadelphia engage to deliver upwards of two months’ supply of Flour for the American Army in the Camp, if so ordered; and, as we have little reason to doubt the Abilities and activity of these Gentlemen, we may with tolerable safety count upon so considerable an aid. Meat will chiefly be brought to us on foot. The matter, then, for which we shall be principally apprehensive, will be the transportation of Forage and Military Stores. To insure this, there are but three ways: a competent sum of money to pay the hire of the teams upon performing the service; the exertion of the States to draw them out upon requisition; or Military coercion in case of extremity. Upon the first, deranged as our finances are, we ought to place but little dependence. On the second, you can as well judge as myself from the present temper of the States, and what they are actually doing. And, although the third method is a disagreeable one, yet I shall not hesitate, if the resources of the country are equal to it, to execute it to the utmost of our means, if the attainment of so great an object, as that which is now before us, is made to depend upon it. With this assurance, I beg to know candidly your opinion of the probable practicability of supporting the operation so far as it depends on transportation. While we do not underrate difficulties on one hand, we should not overrate them on the other; nor discourage ourselves from a very important undertaking by obstacles, which are to be surmounted. I am, &c.
TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE.
Head-Quarters, 22 July, 1780.
I have received, My Dear Marquis, your letter enclosing me those you had received from Count de Rochambeau and the Chevalier de Ternay. As I speak to you in confidence, I am sorry to find that the objections made by M. de Ternay are of a nature to prevent his entering the harbor, notwithstanding any superiority he will probably have. I certainly would not wish him to endanger his fleet in any enterprise not warranted by prudence, and by a sufficient prospect of success and security; and I shall acquiesce in his better judgment of Maritime Affairs. But I should hope, whenever he shall have a decided superiority, he may possess the port; and certainly, without this, our operations must be infinitely more precarious, and in success much less decisive.1
Another thing that gives me concern is the non-arrival of our arms and powder. Of the former we have not one half a sufficiency for our recruits, and in the latter, (including the quantity expected,) we were defective. Unless, therefore, our allies can lend us largely, we certainly can attempt nothing. With every effort we can make, we shall fall short at least four or five thousand arms, and two hundred tons of powder. We must of necessity, my Dear Marquis, however painful it is to abuse the generosity of our friends, know of them whether they can assist us with a loan of that quantity of arms and ammunition. I do not believe we can make out with less; but, before we can enter into any engagements, we must ascertain what they will be able to spare us. I entreat you to speak to the Count on this subject without delay, and let me know the result by express. If the arms can be obtained, endeavor to have them forwarded as quick as possible, to put into the hands of the recruits, that we may be training them a little, and putting them in condition to act.
With respect to the Count’s desire of a personal interview with me, you are sensible, my dear Marquis, that there is nothing I should more ardently desire than to meet him; but you are also sensible, that my presence here is essential to keep our preparations in activity, or even going on at all. I entreat you to impress the Count with a proper idea of this matter, and convince him with what pleasure I should hasten to meet him, if it would not be injurious to our affairs. I should have anticipated his wishes. I am persuaded, my dear Marquis, that, however ardent may be your wishes to undertake the reduction of a certain place, you will not fail to take a candid and full view of the difficulties. We owe it to our allies. We owe it to ourselves.1
Colonel Hamilton informed you yesterday of the advices received from New York of an intended embarkation, said to be destined for Rhode Island. Major Lee in a letter of the 20th tells me the English fleet have returned to the Hook. Assure the Count and the Chevalier of all the esteem and attachment I feel for them, and receive the assurances of the affection with which I am, dear Marquis, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
The committee has done me the honor to communicate a copy of their letter of the 18th to Congress, containing a state of the measures they had taken, and of our present prospects. The knowledge I have of facts perfectly coincides with their representation; and the consequences they draw are so just and important, that they ought to engage, and I am persuaded will engage, the closest attention of Congress. I think it my duty to add, that, pressed on all sides by a choice of difficulties, in a moment which required decision, I have adopted that line of conduct, which suited the dignity and faith of Congress, the reputation of these States, and the honor of our arms. I have sent on definite proposals of coöperation to the French general and admiral. Neither period of the Season, nor a regard to decency, would permit delay. The die is cast, and it remains with the States either to fulfil their engagements, preserve their credit, and support their independence, or to involve us in disgrace and defeat. Notwithstanding the failures pointed out by the Committee, I shall proceed, on the supposition that they will ultimately consult their own interest and honor, and not suffer us to fail for want of means, which it is evidently in their power to afford. What has been done, and is doing, by some of the States, confirms the opinion I have entertained of sufficient resources in the country;—of the disposition of the People to submit to any arrangement for bringing them forth, I see no reasonable ground to doubt. If we fail for want of proper exertions in any of the Governments, I trust the responsibility will fall where it ought, and that I shall stand justified to Congress, to my country, and to the world.
From misconception or some other cause, there seems to have been not sufficient attention to the articles of Transportation and forage, which must be the pivot of our operations.—Few of the States as far as I am informed have yet put this important particular on a footing equal to the exigency—Several have agreed to furnish the horses and waggons demanded for the field-Service of the Army: but have not provided means to transport the Provisions—Artillery Stores—Arms—cloathing—&c., for the use of the Expedition without which it must evidently be obstructed in its very first Stage.
Congress are sensible, that I have made it a rule to speak with the most scrupulous delicacy of the measures of the States, generally or particularly, and will do me the justice to believe, that the plainness of my present remarks is dictated by a sense of duty, by the importance of the conjuncture, and by the necessity of giving them a just view of our situation. I beg leave to observe, that, from present appearances, it seems to me indispensable, that Congress should enlarge the Powers of their Committee. We have every reason to believe it will become unavoidable to exert powers, which, if they have no sanction, may be very disagreeable to the people, and productive of discontents and oppositions, which will be infinitely injurious. With perfect respect and esteem, I am &c.1
TO JOSEPH JONES.
Head Quarters,Bergen County,
Your favor of the 18th came to my hands last night—considering the delicate situation in which I stand with respect to General Gates, I feel an unwillingness to give any opinion (even in a confidential way) in a matter in which he is concerned, lest my sentiments (being known) should have unfavorable interpretations ascribed to them by illiberal Minds—I will however state facts, and leave you to draw inferences, with respect to the promotion required.
Custom (for I do not recollect any resolve of Congress authorizing it) has established a kind of right to the promotion of Brigadiers in State lines (where there are Regiments enough to require a Brigr. to command)—There can be no objection therefore to the Gentn. named, on this ground.1
By the practice of our Army, never less than four Regiments are placed in a Brigade, but in cases of necessity.—The quota of Regiments allotted to the State of Virginia originally were 15— In the year 1778 there was an incorporation of some of them by the Committee of arrangement (sent to the White Plains); and approved, to the best of my recollection by Congress—This reduced them to NA; one of which is now at Fort Pitt.—
The State of Virginia at this time (since the recall of Weedon) has four Brigadiers in pay, and two in active Service—Those in captivity will be injured if they should not return to actual command when they are exchanged; and they can have no command out of their own line,—nor can there be any in it if new B— are made.
The State was about to raise 5,000 Men, 4,000 of which is, more than probable as many as they will get—and were I to form my judgment from our usual disappointments, and the customary deficiency in these cases, I should not expect 3,000 Men.—
At the request of Govr. Jefferson, and from a list of the officers of the Virga. Line (not in captivity), I have made a temporary formation of these Troops into Six (or as the case may be) Seven Regiments, till they are surcharged—there being officers enough in the State for this purpose.
The case of S—ns1 is not singular, it frequently happens—and in the nature of things must happen, while we depend upon Militia; and the appointment of officers of his Rank are in the Executive of each State.—I have no doubt but that several instances of this kind will occur under my immediate command in the course of the Campaign (if our intended operation goes forward)—It is unavoidable, while we depend upon Militia for field Service.
The Gentmn. who is the subject of your Letter is a brave officer, and well meaning man, but his withdrawing from Service at the time he did last year, could not be justified on any ground—there was not, to my knowledge, the smallest cause for dissatisfaction—and the season and circumstances were totally opposed to the measure even if cause had existed, till matters assumed a different aspect than they were at the time of his proffered resignation.—
From this state of facts, which I believe to be candid and impartial, you will judge of the propriety, or impropriety of the promotion in question, and act accordingly.—
If any letter of mine to Col. Harrison (Speaker to the Virginia House of Delegates) could have a tendency to injure rather than promote the service in which we are engaged, the operation of it, and my intention, are as far apart as the North pole is from the South.—
In May, after the Marquis’ arrival with assurances of speedy succor from France, I wrote to Col. Harrison (which I had not done for many months before) and informed him knowing the Assembly was then sitting—of the totally deranged situation of our affairs—of our distresses—of the utter impracticability of availing ourselves of this generous aid, unless the States would rouse from the Torpor that seized them, and observed, that * * *1
If there is anything in the foregoing quotations of my Letter to Col. Harrison that could prejudice the Service, I must abide the consequences, for I certainly wrote what is recited— Not officially as you will readily perceive, but in a private letter to a friend, whose influence, together with that of every wellwisher to the cause I wanted to engage, as I thought it high time that every Engine should be at work.— The whole of what I wrote on the points you mentioned, are faithfully transcribed, that you may judge how far it could prejudice the Service—
With the greatest esteem and regard, &c.
P. S. The latter clause of the quotations of my letter to Col. Harrison I am not absolutely certain was sent.—The original draught contained it, but I am in some doubt whether it was copied or not,—This I mention that there may be no possible mis-information on my part.—
TO SIR HENRY CLINTON.
Head-Quarters, 26 July, 1780.
I have been duly honored with your Excellency’s letter of the 19th instant, and am pleased to find, that the proposition I had the honor of communicating to General Knyphausen, and afterwards to your Excellency, on the 5th of this month, for mutually appointing agents for prisoners, has met your approbation. I should have been happy, if you had in your letter delineated your ideas of the powers and restrictions, under which they are to act; but, as you have not done it, I beg leave to offer the enclosed propositions on this head for your consideration, and to request your answer to them as soon as it may be convenient, with any additional ones your Excellency may think proper to subjoin. It will be perfectly agreeable for the agent, that shall be appointed on your part, to reside at Lancaster, as your Excellency has proposed, which will also be made the place of confinement for the privates, prisoners of war in our hands, so far as circumstances will reasonably permit.
Your Excellency’s despatches on the subject of the troops of convention, have been received. I am exceedingly obliged by the favorable sentiments you are pleased to entertain of my disposition towards prisoners; and I beg leave to assure you, Sir, that I am sensible of the treatment, which those under your direction have generally experienced. There is nothing more contrary to my wishes, than that men in captivity should suffer the least unnecessary severity or want; and I shall take immediate occasion to transmit a copy of the report you enclose (the truth of which I can neither deny nor admit) to the commandant at Charlottesville, with orders to inquire into the facts, and to redress grievances wherever they may exist. At the same time, that I will not pretend to controvert the justice of the matters complained of by Mr. Hoakesley (the report transmitted being the first and only communication I have had with respect to them), I cannot but think the terms of General Phillips’s letter to your Excellency rather exceptionable, and that this gentleman’s own experience and good understanding should have led to a more favorable and just interpretation, than the one he has been pleased to make upon the occasion. I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE.
I have received your letter of the 22d, from Hartford. I perceive, my dear Marquis, you are determined at all events to take New York, and that obstacles only increase your zeal. I am sorry that our prospects, instead of brightening, grow duller. I have already written to you on the subject of arms. There is no probability of our getting the number we want from the States; so that, without the timely arrival of those we expect, or the assistance of our allies, this alone will prove an insuperable obstacle. Our levies come in even slower than I expected; though we have still an abundance of fair promises, and some earnest of performance from the eastern States. Pennsylvania has given us not quite four hundred, and seems to think she has done admirably well. Jersey has given us fifty or sixty. But I do not despair of Jersey.
Mr. Clinton still continues to threaten your countrymen with a combined attack. You will judge, as well as, of the probability of his being sincere; but I have put the troops here under marching orders, and have ordered those at West Point to King’s Ferry. If Clinton moves in force to Rhode Island, we may possibly be able to take advantage of it; or we may embarrass him a little and precipitate his movements. In this case, there are only two things, that would hinder us from taking New York before your return, the want of men and arms to do it with. If this letter should not meet you on your way back, a visit from you to the Council of Massachusetts may have a good effect. Urge the absolute necessity of giving us their full complement of men, and of doing every thing else that has been asked of them. Dwell upon the articles of arms and ammunition. With the truest affection, I remain, my dear Marquis, your assured friend, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Paramus, 30 July, 1780.
The Honorable the Committee address Congress by this opportunity to inform them of the most disagreeable crisis, to which our affairs are brought in the Quarter Master-General’s department. I think it my duty to assure Congress, that I entirely agree with the Committee in opinion, and that, unless effectual measures are immediately taken to induce General Greene and the other principal officers of the department to continue their services, there must of necessity be a total stagnation of military business. We not only must cease from the preparations for the campaign, but shall in all probability be obliged to disperse, if not disband the army, for want of subsistence.
With every effort it will be possible for us to make, embarrassed as we are on every side, it will be extremely difficult, if not impracticable, to keep the great departments of the army in motion. Any interruption, therefore, in addition to what arises from the present posture of affairs, must prove ruinous at this important juncture. I have the honor to be, &c.
TO COUNT DE ROCHAMBEAU.
Highlands,State of New York,
Your letter of the 25th Instant reached me yesterday.
Sir Henry Clinton has sailed as mentioned in my last with the principal part of his force to attack you, estimated at about eight thousand men. It cannot be more, nor do I suppose he would hazard the enterprise with a much less number. I am glad the inactivity of the enemy has given you time to prepare; and, relying on your abilities, and the excellence of your troops, I hope you will send them back with disgrace. Had I any prospect of arriving in time I would march to your support; but, as I think there is no probability of this, the only way I can be useful to you is to menace New York, and even to attack it, if the force remaining there does not exceed what I have reason to believe. I am pressing my movements for this purpose, with all the rapidity in our power. I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL HEATH.
Robinson’s House, 31 July, 1780.
I arrived here last night, having met your favors of the 25th & 26th at Peramus, where the army then lay.
Immediately upon hearing, that the transports with the troops, which had been some days on board, had sailed Eastward, I put the army in motion again. They will cross the Ferry to-day, and will be joined by the troops from hence. I propose moving as rapidly as possible down towards Kingsbridge, which will either oblige the enemy to abandon their project against Rhode Island, or may afford us an opportunity of striking them to advantage in this quarter, if Sir Henry Clinton has carried with him the number of men reported (eight thousand), and with less than which I think he would scarcely venture an attempt upon Count Rochambeau, reinforced by the militia. I entirely approve of the measure you have taken for calling in aid, and I have the strongest hopes, that, if Sir Henry should venture upon an attack, he will meet with a reception very different from what he expects. You know the critical situation in which this army will be in a position below, and how much depends upon constant intelligence of the motions of the enemy. I shall direct relays of expresses the whole way between this army and you, to convey intelligence in the most expeditious manner.
The nearest express to you will be upon Tower Hill; and General Greene advises, that you should keep two whale-boots to communicate with him by South Ferry, so long as that passage shall be safe, and, if that should be interrupted, by Bissell’s Harbor. I am, &c.1
TO BRIGADIER-GENERAL FELLOWS, MASSACHUSETTS MILITIA.
By advices just received, I hear that the Enemy have cut off the communication with Fort Schuyler; and, as the place is not well supplied with provision, there is reason to fear the loss of that valuable post, unless it is speedily relieved. You will therefore be pleased instantly upon the receipt hereof to detach five hundred of the militia under your command properly officered, with direction to the officer to march and put himself under the command of Brigadier-General Van Rensselaer of Tryon county. I have written to Colonel Van Schaick at Albany, to supply provisions, wagons, and whatever else may be necessary to expedite the march of the detachment. Governor Clinton has written to the same effect to Colonel Van Schaick, and to General Van Rensselaer. When you consider how very essential the post of Fort Schuyler is to the security of our whole frontier, and that the saving of the harvest of the fine country upon the Mohawk River depends upon the immediate removal of the enemy, I am convinced you will not lose any time in marching off the detachment, that they may form a junction with the militia of the State of New York. Ammunition will be ready at Albany.
I am, &c.
TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE.
Peekskill, 3 August, 1780.
I received this day, my dear Marquis, your letter of the 29th of July. The blunders which have been made with respect to arms, ammunition, and cloathing, are serious disappointments. I think, however, from a closer inspection of our means, that we shall be able to collect nearly arms enough to put into the hands of our recruits, and powder enough to undertake the enterprise, if in the course of the operation we can depend on the fifty ton expected from France, and can obtain fifty ton more from the fleet.
I would not wish you to press the French General and Admiral to any thing, to which they show a disinclination, especially to withdrawing their troops from Rhode Island before the second division arrives to give them a naval superiority. Should they yield to importunity, and an accident happen either there or here, they would lay the consequences to us. Only inform them what we can do, what we are willing to undertake, and let them intirely consult their own inclination for the rest. Our prospects are not so flattering as to justify our being very pressing to engage them in our views. I shall, however, go on with all our preparations, and hope circumstances will ultimately favor us. If a part of the West India fleet should come this way, it will powerfully contribute to our success.
Should not the second division arrive so as to enable us to commence our operations by the first of September, I shall have no great expectation of effecting the object. When we calculated on having twice the force of the enemy, we included the whole succor expected from France. It will be difficult, if not impracticable, to accomplish this before the second division arrives. The number of men come in hitherto rather fall short of than exceed our calculation.
Nothing appears to me more evident, than that a communication may be secured with Long Island by land batteries. The narrowness of the Sound, the Islands, the sinuosity and other difficulties of the channel about Hell Gate, show the impracticability of vessels interrupting the communication you may establish there. All the experiments I have seen demonstrate, that shipping cannot be under the fire of land batteries, nor will they venture to try their strength with them except when they are low, or there is a bold shore, and they can annoy them from their tops; neither of which would be the case there.
I wrote to you two days ago by a French gentleman on his way to Rhode Island with despatches from the Minister of France. You will find by that letter, that, on the 31st of July, the enemy’s fleet returned towards New York. In all probability our movement this way occasioned them to relinquish their expedition to Rhode Island. To-morrow we recross the River and proceed toward Dobbs’s Ferry; our motives for recrossing are to save transportation and forage. Your Light Infantry is formed, about two thousand fine men; but the greater part of them naked. Adieu, my dear Marquis, &c.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL HEATH.
I received yesterday your letter of the 29th ultimo. Before this comes to hand, you will have been informed, that the fleet in the sound, which it is generally believed was designed to proceed to Rhode Island, has returned. We have so many accounts of this, that we have no doubt of it, and are pursuing measures accordingly. With respect to the return of the militia, who were called for under the persuasion that the enemy meant to attack the Count [de Rochambeau], it will rest with him and you to determine the point. But, as it is of consequence, on account of the state of our provisions, that we should not have more of these in the Field, than prudence and necessity may require, and as it is not very probable, that the Enemy will now return upon their steps and prosecute their supposed original plan, it might be best to permit the militia to go to their homes.1
As to your coming on to the army immediately, I shall leave it intirely with yourself to act in the affair as you please. Your command is, and will always be, ready for you. However, if you find your presence where you are necessary, and that it will contribute to the accommodation of our allies, and to the cultivation of harmony, matters about which I am very anxious, it may possibly be more eligible for you to remain longer, as we shall not, probably, have any instant active operations. But, as I have already said, do in the matter as you like, and as circumstances may decide.2
I find by a letter from His Excellency Governor Greene, of the 24th, that nearly the whole of the State’s quota of levies for filling her two Regiments had assembled, and were doing duty under the command of Colonel Greene. It is of consequence that Colonel Greene’s Regiment and the levies should join the army, in order to compleat our arrangements, and that they may be disciplined. However, I would not wish them to be ordered on, without your consulting the Count and his approbation of the measure. If they do not march immediately, you will impress Colonel Greene with the necessity there is for his strictest and most constant attention to disciplining them, and for his being ready to proceed the moment he is ordered, or that the Count shall judge his remaining longer unnecessary. You will also direct him to transmit me a return of his Regiment and of the Levies. I am, dear Sir, with great regard, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL ARNOLD.
Peekskill, 3 August, 1780.
You are to proceed to West Point, and take the command of that post and its dependencies, in which are included all from Fishkill to King’s Ferry. The corps of infantry and cavalry, advanced towards the Enemy’s lines on the East side of the River, will also be under your orders, and will take directions from you; and you will endeavor to obtain every intelligence of the Enemy’s motions. The garrison of West Point is to consist of the Militia of New Hampshire and Massachusetts; for which reason, as soon as the number from those States amounts to twelve hundd. the New York Militia under the command of Colonel Malcom, are to join the Main Army on the West side of the River; and, when the number from Massachusetts Bay alone shall amount to fifteen hundred, Rank and File, the Militia of New Hampshire will also march to the Main Army. Colonel James Livingston’s regiment is, till further orders, to garrison the redoubts at Stony and Verplanck’s Points.
Claverac, upon the North River, is appointed for the place of rendezvous of the Militia of New Hampshire and Massachusetts, from whence you will have them brought down as fast as they arrive. A supply of provision will be necessary at that place, which you will order, from time to time, as there may be occasion. You will endeavor to have the Works at West Point carried on as expeditiously as possible by the Garrison, under the direction and Superintendence of the Engineers, the Stores carefully preserved, and the provision safely deposited and often inspected, particularly the salted meat. A certain quantity of provision has been constantly kept in each work, to be ready against a sudden attack. Where there are bomb-proofs, they serve for Magazines; but in the smaller works, where there are none, you will have places erected sufficiently tight to preserve the provision from damage and pillage.
You will, as soon as possible, obtain and transmit an accurate Return of the Militia, which have come in, and inform me regularly of their increase. Should any Levies from the State of New York, or those to the Eastward of it, intended for the Continental Army, arrive at West Point, you will immediately forward them to the lines to which they respectively belong. The difficulties, we shall certainly experience, on the score of provisions, render the utmost economy highly necessary. You will, therefore, attend frequently to the daily Issues; and, by comparing them with your Returns, will be able to check any impositions. I am, &c.1
TO COUNT DE ROCHAMBEAU.
I was yesterday honored with your letter of the 30th of July.
I applaud all the measures you have taken, which appear to me precisely such as the occasion required; and I am very happy to hear, that the neighboring States manifested so much ardor in doing what their interest, their duty, and their gratitude demanded from them. It is my wish you should detain the levies, as long as you think they can be useful to you.
The Marquis de Lafayette will have informed you, by my desire, that Clinton returned with his fleet the 31st of July. He has since landed his troops on Long Island, and I think will hardly resume the project, which he certainly entertained, of attacking you. In consequence of his return, the army is recrossing the River and will proceed to Dobbs’s Ferry, about ten miles from Kingsbridge, where we intend to establish a communication that will save us a considerable land transportation, in case New York is our eventual object. The reason for preferring the West side of the River to the other, which at first sight will appear most natural, is to meet our supplies of flour, and save the forage on this side; both of which in our circumstances are objects of importance. By the enclosed copy of a letter to the Chevalier de la Luzerne, you will see the opinion I have ventured to give respecting the second division, concerning which I impatiently wait to secure your sentiments and those of the Chevalier de Ternay, with a plan for a junction of the fleets as suggested in my letter. No other changes have taken place in the situation of the enemy at New York. I am, &c.
P. S. The minister, agreeably to the application to him, has sent out fast sailing Cruisers from all the parts of the coast where it is probable they may fall in with the second division.
TO JOHN PARKE CUSTIS.
Peekskill, 6 August, 1780.
Your letter of the 26th of July came to my hands yesterday, and I thank you for the account given of the scheme. I should have thought the omission unpardonable, as it must, in a manner have set our money afloat again, when every measure which human policy is capable of devising ought to be adopted to give it a fixed and permanent value. I much fear your act for raising three thousand men will rather fall short than exceed that number, because it is our fortune to have such kind of laws (though most Important) badly executed, and such men as are raised dissipated and lost before they join the army. Your scheme for association I must approve; it is certainly high time to retrench in all kinds of extravagance, and to adopt the most economical plans, that, by a return to virtue, we may be the better able to support the war and bring it to a happy issue. In consequence of General Clinton’s embarking a considerable part of the force at New York, and sailing down the Sound for Rhode Island, I put my troops in motion and crossed at King’s ferry, where, assembling my whole force, was determined to make a vigorous effort to possess myself of the city. This brought him back again, and, though I am disappointed by it, has answered the end of relief to the French troops at Rhode Island, which was the object of his destination. I am now, for the sake of shortening our transportation of provisions and forage, recrossing the river, and shall move down towards Dobb’s ferry till our reinforcements (not a fourth of which are yet come in) arrive, and the supplies which are to enable us to commence the operations of the campaign. * * *
TO MAJOR-GENERAL ARNOLD.
* * * * * *
I have recd. intelligence, that the British Troops, which lately returned from the Eastward and debarked upon Long Island, have orders to embark again. I cannot suppose, that they mean again to go towards Rhode Island; neither can I think, that, in the present situation of matters, they can expect any success from an attempt upon West point; but, in order that we may run no risque, I shall write to Colonel Malcom, directing him to halt in the neighborhood of Haverstraw till further orders. He will from thence be in supporting distance of the posts, should a serious move up the river take place. You will also detain all the militia of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, who may come in, until we receive more certain intelligence of the views and intentions of the Enemy. You will put all your posts upon their guard. They can be affected by nothing but a surprise, while this army is so near them.
We shall have occasion to throw up some small works at Dobbs’s Ferry, to secure the intended communication at that place; and, in order that we may be enabled to finish them in the most expeditious manner, you will be pleased to order sixty of Colonel Baldwin’s regimented Artificers to come immediately down here.
Colonel Hay writes, that he shall be able to lay up some stock of hay at Fishkill, provided orders are given, that none shall be issued while Grass or pasture is to be had, except upon such occasions as you, or the Dy. Qr. Master-General at the post, shall think proper. This measure appears necessary; and you will, therefore, be pleased to give orders to have it carried into execution. A new Qr. Mr.-Genl. (Colonel Pickering) is appointed. Whether he will be supplied with the means of procuring what is necessary in the department, or whether the new system is calculated to produce them, is yet to be known. In the mean time, you can only proceed in working up the materials, which you find upon hand. I am, &c.
TO JOSEPH JONES.
The subject of this letter will be confined to a single point. I shall make it as short as possible, and write it with frankness. If any sentiment therefore is delivered, which might be displeasing to you as a member of Congress, ascribe it to the freedom which is taken with you by a friend, who has nothing in view but the public good.
In your letter without date, but which came to hand yesterday, an idea is held up, as if the acceptance of General Greene’s resignation of the quartermaster’s department was not all that Congress meant to do with him.1 If by this it is in contemplation to suspend him from his command in the line, of which he made an express reservation at the time of entering on the other duty, and it is not already enacted, let me beseech you to consider well what you are about before you resolve. I shall neither condemn nor acquit General Greene’s conduct for the act of resignation, because all the antecedent correspondence is necessary to form a right judgment of the matter; and possibly, if the affair is ever brought before the public, you may find him treading on better ground than you seem to imagine; but this by the by. My sole aim at present is to advertise you of what I think would be the consequences of suspending him from his command in the line (a matter distinct from the other) without a proper trial. A procedure of this kind must touch the feelings of every officer. It will show in a conspicuous point of view the uncertain tenure by which they hold their commissions. In a word, it will exhibit such a specimen of power, that I question much if there is an officer in the whole line, that will hold a commission beyond the end of the campaign, if he does till then. Such an act in the most despotic government would be attended at least with loud complaints.
It does not require with you, I am sure, at this time of day, arguments to prove, that there is no set of men in the United States, considered as a body, that have made the same sacrifices of their interest in support of the common cause, as the officers of the American army; that nothing but a love of their country, of honor, and a desire of seeing their labors crowned with success, could possibly induce them to continue one moment in service; that no officer can live upon his pay; that hundreds, having spent their little all in addition to their scanty public allowance, have resigned, because they could no longer support themselves as officers; that numbers are at this moment rendered unfit for duty for want of clothing, while the rest are wasting their property, and some of them verging fast to the gulf of poverty and distress.
Can it be supposed, that men under these circumstances, who can derive at best, if the contest ends happily, only the advantages which accrue in equal proportion to others, will sit patient under such a precedent? Surely they will not; for the measure, not the man, will be the subject of consideration, and each will ask himself this question: if Congress by its mere fiat, without inquiry and without trial, will suspend an officer to-day, and an officer of such high rank, may it not be my turn to-morrow, and ought I to put it in the power of any man or body of men to sport with my commission and character, and lay me under the necessity of tamely acquiescing, or, by an appeal to the public, exposing matters, which must be injurious to its interests? The suspension of Generals Schuyler and St. Clair, though it was preceded by the loss of Ticonderoga, which contributed not a little for the moment to excite prejudices against them, was by no means viewed with a satisfactory eye by many discerning men, though it was in a manner supported by the public clamor; and the one in contemplation I am almost certain will be generally reprobated by the army.
Suffer not, my friend, if it is within the compass of your abilities to prevent it, so disagreeable an event to take place. I do not mean to justify, to countenance, or excuse, in the most distant degree, any expressions of disrespect, which the gentleman in question, if he has used any, may have offered to Congress; no more than I do any unreasonable matters he may have required respecting the quartermaster-general’s department; but, as I have already observed, my letter is to prevent this suspension, because I fear, because I feel, that it must lead to very disagreeable and injurious consequences. General Greene has his numerous friends out of the army as well as in it; and, from his character and consideration in the world, he might not, when he felt himself wounded in so summary a way, withhold himself from a discussion, that could not at best promote the public cause. As a military officer he stands very fair, and very deservedly so, in the opinion of all his acquaintances. These sentiments are the result of my own reflections, and I hasten to inform you of them. I do not know that General Greene has ever heard of the matter, and I hope he never may; nor am I acquainted with the opinion of a single officer in the whole army upon the subject, nor will any tone be given by me. It is my wish to prevent the proceeding; for, sure I am, that it cannot be brought to a happy issue, if it takes place. I am, &c.1
TO THE CHEVALIER DE TERNAY.
The reasons, which you assign for preferring the harbor of Boston to that of Delaware for the rendezvous of the second division, are certainly well founded, and I hope, from the steps which have been taken to give it notice of the position of Admiral Arbuthnot’s fleet, that the division will reach one or the other of those ports in safety. I immediately communicated to the Board of Admiralty at Philadelphia your opinion of the most advantageous manner of employing the American frigates and sloop Saratoga, until circumstances shall admit of our commencing serious operations against the enemy; and I have advised them, should it not interfere with any arrangements which may have been previously made, to adopt the measures recommended by you. I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO THE COMMITTEE OF CO-OPERATION.
We are now arrived at the middle of August; if we are able to undertake any thing in this quarter, this campaign our operations must commence in less than a month from this, or it will be absolutely too late. It will then be much later than were to be wished, and with all the exertions that can be made, we shall probably be greatly straitened in time.—
But I think it my duty to inform you, that our prospects of operating diminish in proportion as the effects of our applications to the respective states unfold, and I am sorry to add that we have every reason to apprehend we shall not be in a condition at all to undertake anything decisive. The completion of our Continental battalions to their full establishment of 504 rank and file, has been uniformly and justly held up as the basis of offensive operations. How far we have fallen short of this, the following state of the levies received and of the present deficiencies will show.
By a return to the 16th instant, we had received from
The deficiencies of the battalions, from a return of the 12th, allowing for the levies since arrived to the 16th are of
If the amount of these deficiencies and the detached corps necessarily on the frontier and at particular posts be deducted, and a proper allowance made for the ordinary casualties, and for the extra calls upon the army for wagoners, artificers etc., it will be easy to conceive how inadequate our operating force must be to any capital enterprise against the enemy. It is indeed, barely sufficient for defence.
Hitherto all the militia for three months, that have taken the field under my orders have been about, 700 from New Hampshire, 1700 from Massachusetts, 800 from New York, 500 from New Jersey.
A part of the Eastern militia has been detained to assist our allies at Rhode Island, and will shortly march to join the army. But from all the information I have, the number of militia will fall, as far short of the demand as the Continental troops, and from the slow manner in which the latter have for some time past come in, I fear we have had nearly the whole we are to expect.
In the article of provisions, our prospects are equally unfavorable. We are now fed by a precarious supply from day to day. The Commissary, from what has been done in the several States, so far from giving assurances of a continuance of this supply, speaks in the most discouraging terms, as you will perceive by the enclosed copy of a letter of the 15th instant, in which he proposes the sending back the Pennsylvania militia, who were to assemble at Trenton, the 12th, on the principle of a failure of provisions.
As to forage and transportation, our prospects are still worse.—These have lately been principally procured by military impress,—a mode too violent, unequal, oppressive and consequently odious, to the people, to be long practised with success.
In this state of things, Gentlemen, I leave it to your own judgment to determine, how little it will be in my power to answer the public expectation, unless more competent means can be, and are without delay, put into my hands. From the communications of the General and Admiral of our allies, the second division, without some very unfortunate contrariety, will in all probability arrive before the time mentioned as the ultimate period for commencing our operations. I submit it to you, whether it will not be advisable immediately to lay before the several States a view of our circumstances at the juncture, in consequence of which they may take their measures. I have the honor to be, &c.
N. B. The return of the Rhode Island recruits is of the last of July; more may have since joined.
There is a body of Connecticut State troops and militia employed in preparing fascines, etc., on the Sound.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Orangetown, 20 August, 1780.
I have been duly honored with your Excellency’s letters and their enclosures. I have a grateful sense of the confidence of which those acts are expressive, and shall labor to improve it to the utmost extent of the means with which I am entrusted. I sincerely wish our prospects were more favorable than they are.1
The enclosed copy of a letter to The Honorable the Committee of Coöperation will give Congress an idea of our situation at this time, and how little reason we have to expect we shall be able to prosecute our original intentions in this quarter, even should the event correspond with the expectations of our allies on their part. The same obstacles will oppose in a great degree the operations recommended to the southward; for, from all the accounts we receive from thence, the affairs of the Southern States seem to be so exceedingly disordered, and their resources so much exhausted, that whatever should be undertaken there must chiefly depend on the means carried from hence. If these fail, we shall be condemned to a disgraceful and fatal inactivity. It is impossible to be more impressed with the necessity of the reverse than I am. I think our affairs absolutely require it, and if any efforts of mine can enable us to act with vigor either here or elsewhere, it certainly shall be done. But there is a complication of embarrassments, that menaces us on every side with disappointment.
At this very juncture I am reduced to the painful alternative, either of dismissing a part of the Militia now Assembling (though by the way they were to have rendezvoused the 25th of last month), or let them come forward to starve, which it will be extremely difficult for the Troops already in the field to avoid. If we adopt the first, we shall probably not be able to get them out again in time to be of any service this Campaign, and to let them come on without the means of subsistence would be absurd. Every day’s experience proves more and more, that the present mode of obtaining supplies is the most uncertain, expensive, and injurious, that could be devised. It is impossible for us to form any calculations of what we are to expect, and consequently to concert any plans for future execution. No adequate provision for forage having been made, we are now obliged to subsist the Horses of the Army by force, which among other evils often gives rise to civil disputes and prosecutions, as vexatious as they will be burthensome to the public. This is the spirit prevailing among the inhabitants, and its effects cannot be prevented by us, without an open rupture with the Civil Majestrate. Influence and persuasion begin now to be unavailing; we of course have no other remedy.
In our present state of suspense, I would not propose any specific requisitions of the Southern States, other than those already made. They should be urged to exert themselves to comply with these, and in general to do every thing in their power to form as ample Magazines of Bread, forage, and salted meat, as the resources of the Country will afford, at such deposits as the Commanding officer in that quarter may point out, having regard, as far as circumstances will admit, to transportation by water. Congress, I doubt not, are better acquainted with the abilities of those States than I am, or any person I can consult, and will be better able to direct calculations of what they can furnish. If they think any further specific demands necessary to answer the purpose of forming Magazines, I shall be much obliged to them to take the proper measures, calculating for an army of eight thousand American troops. If possible, this force should be kept up and supplied in any case, while the enemy remain there with their present strength.
If any thing more can be done to stimulate the States this way to a compliance with the requisitions made of them, particularly in the articles of flour and forage, where we seem most defective, it will conduce more than any thing else to enable us to act both here and to the southward; for, as I before observed, it appears to me evident, that the means for a southern operation, as well with respect to supplies as men, must be principally carried from hence.
But while we are meditating offensive operations, which may either not be undertaken at all, or being undertaken may fail, I am persuaded Congress are not inattentive to the present state of the army, and will view in the same light with me the necessity of providing in time against a period—the 1st of January—when one half of our present force will dissolve. The shadow of an army, that will remain, will have every motive, except mere patriotism, to abandon the service, without the hope, which has hitherto supported them, of a change for the better. This is almost extinguished now, and certainly will not outlive the campaign, unless it finds something more substantial to rest upon. This is a truth, of which every spectator of the distresses of the army cannot help being convinced; those at a distance may speculate differently, but on the spot an opinion to the contrary, judging human nature on the usual scale, would be chimerical. The honorable the Committee, who have seen and heard for themselves, will add their testimony to mine, and the wisdom and justice of Congress cannot fail to give it the most serious attention. To me it will appear miraculous, if our affairs can maintain themselves much longer in their present train. If either the temper or the resources of the country will not admit of an alteration, we may expect soon to be reduced to the humiliating condition of seeing the cause of America, in America, upheld by foreign arms. The generosity of our allies has a claim to all our confidence and all our gratitude, but it is neither for the honor of America, nor for the interest of the common cause, to leave the work entirely to them.
It is true our Enemies as well as ourselves are struggling with embarrassments of a singular and complicated nature, from which we may hope a great deal. But they have already more than once disappointed the general expectations, and displayed resources as extraordinary as unexpected. There is no good reason to suppose those resources yet exhausted. Hitherto they have carried on the war with pretty equal success, and the comparative forces of this campaign are, I believe, less advantageous to them than they were the last. At present, indeed, their affairs wear a critical aspect, but there are chances in their favor; and, if they escape, their situation will be likely to take a more prosperous turn, and they may continue to prosecute the war with vigor. Their finances are distressed, they have a heavy debt, and are obliged to borrow money at an excessive interest; but they have great individual wealth, and while they can pay the interest of what they borrow, they will not want credit, nor will they fear to stretch it. A bankruptcy, which may be the result, will perhaps be less terrible to the King and his Ministers than giving up the contest. If the measures leading to it enable them to succeed, it will add so much to the influence and power of the crown, as to make that event a ladder to absolute authority, supposed by many to be the object of the present Reign. Nor are there wanting enlightened Politicians, who maintain that a national bankruptcy is not only a necessary consequence, but would be a national benefit. When we consider the genius of the present reign, and the violent counsels by which it has been governed, a system of this kind will be judged less improbable.
As to the domestic dissensions of the enemy in Ireland, we see they have hitherto not only diverted, but in some measure appeased them; and by pursuing their plan of taking off the leaders, and making plausible concessions to the People, we ought not to be surprised, if they keep matters in that Country from going to extremity. In England it is much to be feared, the overbearing influence of the Crown will triumph over the opposition to it, and that the next Parliament will be nearly as obsequious as the last. A change of some of the ministry, to make way for a few of the principal heads of opposition, would perhaps allay the ferment. But even without this, considering the complexion of the British nation for some time past, it is more probable these appearances will terminate in a partial reform, than in any revolution favorable to the interests of America. The ministry may be perplexed for a time, and may be obliged to make a few sacrifices in favor of public economy, which may finally promote their views by leaving more money in the treasury to be applied to the purposes of the war.
The general disposition of Europe is such as we could wish; but we have no security that it will remain so. The politics of Princes are fluctuating, more guided often, by a particular prejudice, whim, or interest, than by extensive views of policy. The change or caprice of a single minister is capable of altering the whole system of Europe. But, admitting the different courts at this time ever so well fixed in their principles, the death of one of the sovereigns may happen, and the whole face of things be reversed. This ought to be the more attended to, as three of the principal Potentates are at so advanced an age, that it is perhaps more probable one of them should die in the course of a year, than that all three should survive it.
The inference from these reflections is, that we cannot count upon a speedy end to the war, and that it is the true policy of America not to content herself with temporary expedients, but to endeavor, if possible, to give consistency and solidity to her measures. An essential step to this will be immediately to devise a plan, and put it in execution, for providing men in time to replace those who will leave us at the end of the year, for subsisting and making a reasonable allowance to the officers and soldiers. The plan for this purpose ought to be of general operation, and such as will execute itself. Experience has shown, that a peremptory draft will be the only effectual one. If a draft for the war or three years can be effected, it ought to be made on every account. A shorter period than a year is inadmissible. To one, who has been witness to the evils brought upon us by short enlistments, the system appears to have been pernicious beyond description, and a crowd of motives present themselves to dictate a change. It may easily be shown, that all the misfortunes we have met with in the military line are to be attributed to this cause.
Had we formed a permanent army in the beginning, which, by the continuance of the same men in service, had been capable of discipline, we never should have had to retreat with a handful of men across the Delaware in ’76, trembling for the fate of America, which nothing but the infatuation of the enemy could have saved; we should not have remained all the succeeding winter at their mercy, with sometimes scarcely a sufficient body of men to mount the ordinary guards, liable at every moment to be dissipated, if they had only thought proper to march against us: we should not have been under the necessity of fighting at Brandywine, with an unequal number of raw troops, and afterwards of seeing Philadelphia fall a prey to a victorious army; we should not have been at Valley Forge with less than half the force of the enemy, destitute of every thing, in a situation neither to resist nor to retire; we should not have seen New York left with a handful of men, yet an overmatch for the main army of these States, while the principal part of their force was detached for the reduction of two of them; we should not have found ourselves this spring so weak, as to be insulted by five thousand men, unable to protect our baggage and Magazines, their security depending on a good countenance, and a want of enterprise in the enemy; we should not have been the greatest part of the war inferior to the enemy, indebted for our safety to their inactivity, enduring frequently the mortification of seeing inviting opportunities to ruin them pass unimproved for want of a force, which the country was completely able to afford; to see the Country ravaged, our towns burnt, the inhabitants plundered, abused, murdered with impunity from the same cause.
Nor have the ill effects been confined to the military line. A great part of the embarrassments in the civil departments flow from the same source. The derangement of our finances is essentially to be ascribed to it. The expenses of the war, and the Paper emissions, have been greatly multiplied by it. We have had, a great part of the time, two sets of men to feed and pay, the discharged men going home and the Levies coming in. This was more remarkable in ’75 and ’76. The difficulty and cost of engaging men have increased at every successive attempt, till among the present levies we find there are some, who have received a hundred and fifty dollars in specie for five months’ service, while our officers are reduced to the disagreeable necessity of performing the duties of drill sergeants to them, and with this mortifying reflection annexed to the business, that, by the time they have taught those men the rudiments of a soldier’s duty, their term of service will have expired, and the work is to recommence with an entire new set. The consumption of Provision, arms, accoutrements, stores of every kind, has been doubled in spite of every precaution I could use, not only from the cause just mentioned, but from the carelessness and licentiousness incident to militia and irregular Troops. Our discipline also has been much injured, if not ruined, by such frequent changes. The frequent calls upon the militia have interrupted the cultivation of the Land, and of course have lessened the quantity of its produce, occasioned a scarcity, and enhanced the prices. In an army so unstable as ours, order and economy have been impracticable. No person, who has been a close observer of the progress of our affairs, can doubt that our currency has depreciated without comparison more rapidly from the system of short enlistments, than it would have done otherwise.
There is every reason to believe, the War has been protracted on this account. Our opposition being less, made the successes of the enemy greater. The fluctuation of the army kept alive their hopes, and at every period of the dissolution of a considerable part of it, they have flattered themselves with some decisive advantages. Had we kept a permanent army on foot, the enemy could have had nothing to hope for, and would in all probability have listened to terms long since.
If the army is left in its present situation, it must continue an encouragement to the efforts of the enemy; if it is put upon a respectable one, it must have a contrary effect, and nothing, I believe, will tend more to give us peace the ensuing winter. It will be an interesting winter. Many circumstances will contribute to a negotiation. An army on foot not only for another campaign, but for several campaigns, would determine the enemy to pacific measures, and enable us to insist upon favorable terms in forcible language; an army insignificant in numbers, dissatisfied, crumbling into pieces, would be the strongest temptation they could have to try the experiment a little longer. It is an old maxim, that the surest way to make a good peace is to be well prepared for war.
I am inclined to hope a draft for the war, or for three years, would succeed. Many incentives of immediate interest may be held up to the people to induce them to submit to it. They must begin to consider the repeated bounties they are obliged to pay as a burthen, and be willing to get rid of it by sacrificing a little more once for all. Indeed it is probable, the bounties may not be much greater in that case than they have been. The people of the States near the Seat of War ought to enter into such a plan with alacrity, as it would ease them in a variety of respects; among others, by obviating the frequent calls upon the Militia.
I cannot forbear returning in this place to the necessity of a more ample and equal provision for the army. The discontents on this head have been gradually matured to a dangerous extremety. There are many symptoms that alarm and distress me. Endeavors are using to unite both officers and men in a general refusal of the money, and some Corps now actually decline receiving it. Every method has been taken to counteract it, because such a combination in the army would be a severe blow to our declining currency. The most moderate insist, that the accounts of depreciation ought to be liquidated at stated periods, and certificates given by Government for the sums due. They will not be satisfied with a general declaration that it shall be made good.
This is one instance of complaint. There are others equally serious. Among the most serious is the inequality of the provision made by the several States. Pennsylvania maintains her officers in a decent manner; she has given them half-pay for life. What a wide difference between their situation and that of the officers of every other line in this army, some of whom are actually so destitute of Cloathing as to be unfit for duty, and obliged for that cause only to confine themselves to Quarters. I have often said, and beg leave to repeat it, the half-pay provision is in my opinion the most politic and effectual that can be adopted. On the whole, if something satisfactory be not done, the army (already so much reduced in officers by daily resignations, as not to have a sufficiency to do the common duties of it,) must either cease to exist at the end of the Campaign, or it will exhibit an example of more virtue, fortitude, self-denial, and perseverance, than has perhaps ever yet been paralleled in the history of human enthusiasm.
The dissolution of the army is an event, that cannot be regarded with indifference. It would bring accumulated distresses upon us; it wd. throw the people of America into a general consternation; it would discredit our cause throughout the world; it would shock our allies. To think of replacing the officers with others is visionary; the loss of the veteran soldiers could not be repaired; to attempt to carry on the war with militia against disciplined troops would be to attempt what the common sense and common experience of mankind will pronounce to be impracticable. But I should fail in respect to Congress, to dwell on observations of this kind in a letter to them. But having gone into a detail of our situation, I shall beg leave to make one observation more.
It is a thing, that has been all along ardently desired by the army, that every matter which relates to it should be under the immediate direction and providence of Congress. The contrary has been productive of innumerable inconveniences. Besides the inequality of provision already mentioned, all the confusion we have experienced by irregular appointments and promotions has chiefly originated here; and we are again relapsing into the same Chaos. I have daily complaints of palpable mistakes and deviations from those rules on which the tranquillity of the service depends, of which I might cite recent instances if it were necessary to trouble Congress with such a detail. I shall however mention one in the Jersey line, by way of example. A vacancy happened July, 1779, by Lieutenant-Colonel Brearly’s being appointed chief justice of the State. This was not filled till March following, by which the officer entitled to succeed has lost several months’ rank in the line of the army. The vacancies, his promotion made, still continue open to the prejudice of those next in order; and yet, (as I have been informed,) new appointments have been made by the State on the principle of those vacancies. As this is a fruitful source of discontent, it is naturally in my provence to point it out; but, if I were to permit myself to touch upon the political consequences, I might easily show, that it has a direct tendency to enfeeble our civil union by making us thirteen armies instead of one, and by attaching the troops of each State to that State, rather than to the United States. The effects of this spirit begin to be visible. But this is a topic on which I may not be permitted to enlarge.
In this delicate and perplexing conjuncture, which I cannot but contemplate with extreme inquietude, I have thought it my duty to lay my sentiments with freedom, and I hope I have done it with all possible deference, before Congress, and to give them the fullest and truest information in my power. I trust they will receive what I have said with all the indulgence, which must flow from a conviction, that it is dictated by a sincere attachment to their honor, and by an anxious concern for the welfare of my country. I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO COUNT DE ROCHAMBEAU.
Orangetown, 21 August, 1780.
In the letter which I did myself the honor of writing to you the 16th, I had only time to acknowledge the receipt of yours of the 10th, since which I have had the pleasure of successively receiving the two others of the 14th and 17th.
In the idea of an operation against New York, it has always been a fundamental principle with me, that there ought to be a naval superiority to give such a prospect of success as would justify the undertaking. Relying, however, upon a moral certainty of this event shortly happening, if you had found yourself in a condition to desire a commencement of operations, previous to the arrival of the second division, I should have concurred in it. The reflections you make on the difficulty of effecting a debarkation on Long Island, without a naval superiority, are natural and judicious, from the view you must have of it; but, from a knowledge in part of the local situation, and from particular inquiries of others, I think the debarkation would be practicable. From the shape of the ground on both sides, and the narrowness of the Sound in several parts, there are different points of debarkation; and the enemy could not with propriety uncover New York so much (especially if we had once thrown ourselves upon that Island) as to have a sufficient force on Long Island to give effectual opposition at each point. The attempt in question supposes a number of boats collected to throw over at once a force superior to the part of the enemy’s force opposed to you, which might I believe have been done. Their vessels might have been compelled to keep stations too remote to interrupt your descent, by land batteries erected at different places on the main, and on the intermediate Islands.
But notwithstanding the practicability of such an operation, I intirely agree in opinion with you, for several reasons, that it will be best to defer the commencement of the enterprise till we get a superiority at sea. One of the most powerful is, that you could not leave the fleet in security without a considerable part of the land force to coöperate with it, and in this case our collective force would be smaller than would be requisite to act with vigor and confidence.
As to the particular mode of operating against New York, we may at this time combine different possibilities; but we cannot fix a definitive plan. There are three ways in which we may accomplish our purpose; by acting in the first instance with our whole force on York Island; by beginning our operations against Brooklyn with the principal part of our force, leaving a corps of observation for the security of our communication well intrenched on York Island or on the main; by dividing our force into two parts to act against the works on both Islands at once. Which of these plans will be preferable must depend on the time we begin to act, and the force we have to act with. If these circumstances correspond with our wishes, I should prefer the last of the three plans. In this case, we ought, if possible, as a preliminary, to establish ourselves on the Island of New York, and then detach to Long Island a force equal to the whole, which the enemy may be able to bring to act there.
In taking post on Long Island, a force equal to the whole of the enemy may be prudent to guard against possibilities; but, after we have taken post and the usual precautions, two thirds of their whole force will in my opinion be sufficient both for security and for the reduction of the works there. Notwithstanding the facility with which the enemy can pass from one island to the other, they will never hazard to withdraw more than two thirds of their force from York Island to attack the corps on Long Island, while there was an army of more than their whole force in front ready to fall upon the remainder. This would be to expose their essential point, where all their magazines are, to too imminent hazard. Nor even with their whole force would they have great hopes of success against two thirds of the number in intrenchments.1
These, Sir, are my sentiments, which I am happy to find in the main correspond with yours. A naval superiority we both consider as the basis of offensive operations. We both propose the same distribution of force, if circumstances will permit; with only this difference, that I think a small number will suffice for Long Island. I ardently desire, that the interview you mention could take place. I am sensible it would infinitely facilitate our arrangements, and it would gratify the extreme desire I feel of assuring you and the admiral personally of my esteem. But, to my great mortification and regret, there are difficulties in the way not easily surmounted. We are about ten miles from the enemy. Our popular government imposes a necessity of great circumspection. If any misfortune should happen in my absence, it would be attended with every inconvenience. I will however endeavor, if possible and as soon as possible, to meet you at some convenient rendezvous. I entreat you to inform me in your next to what distance the admiral and yourself would think it prudent to absent yourselves from the fleet and army.1
In one of my last I informed you, that Sir Henry was preparing an embarkation, of which it appears you had also received advice. I have received several pieces of similar intelligence, and there has been lately a very hot press for seamen. I cannot, however, suppose he has resumed his intention to attack you, as it would imply too much inconsistency. It is suspected by some, that he is making a detachment to the West Indies. If he means any thing serious, this seems to me as probable as any other supposition. But I doubt his having any thing serious in view. I am much obliged to you for the frankness with which you have given me your opinions, and for the favorable sentiments you entertain of me. Your conduct since your arrival has confirmed the prepossession, your reputation had given me of your abilities; and I promise myself from them, from your counsel, and from your exertions, the most important advantages to the common cause. Let me entreat, you will oblige me with the former upon all occasions, and be assured of the perfect esteem and attachment, with which I have the honor to be, &c.
TO GOVERNOR TRUMBULL.
I am again reduced to the painful necessity of informing your Excellency of the situation in which we are, with respect to provision of the meat kind and of earnestly entreating every assistance in your power to give, for our relief.
The whole army, has been already without meat one day, and a great part of it, two. We have none now in camp, and no good prospect that I can find of receiving any within a reasonable time. The most we can hope for, from any resources within our own command, are Sixty Barrels of salt meat, on the way from West point, which post is now almost entirely degarnished, and cannot have by the last return more than a hundred and twenty barrels, at most, in store. Your Excellency from the state of matters will but too sensibly feel for our alarming situation, and the more so when you reflect we are in a country that did not afford much meat at any time, and that it has been exhausted by the armies on both sides, to the extreme distress of its inhabitants. Our condition at any period would be painful and highly injurious to the public service; but to be in a starving situation at the commencement of the campaign before our operations have even begun, is peculiarly so; must be discouraging in the extreme to our new levies, who now compose half of our force; and must blast and put an end to all our prospects, if we are not relieved from it tho’ in every other respect events should arise bidding fair for success. I will not attempt to detail the consequencies to which this would lead, nor the ideas and apprehensions it would excite in our allies and friends abroad, nor the confidence the Enemy would derive from it. These will but too readily occur to your Excellency, and I am sure you will believe with me that our friends would be greatly alarmed and embarrassed at least, at the circumstance. While the cry of the enemy would be,—We will persevere in the war! America cannot maintain even a small army, for our present one cannot be ranked under any other appellation; or what will be equally encouraging to them, but more disgraceful to us, they will say—Their boasted patriotism is gone, or their wisdom and energy, for though their resources for war still remain, they will not bring them into action!
I am now arranging matters to make a forage on this impoverished people having no other alternative left me, from which I could draw the least possible relief; and even from this, though it will ruin them, I expect to derive the most trifling succor. I rely on that goodness and promptitude I have ever found in your Excellency to promote the public service and am persuaded you will exert all your influence to give us relief, on the present important and alarming occasion.1
TO COUNT DE ROCHAMBEAU.
Head Quarters in the Vicinity of Fort Lee,
I have received the honor of Your Excellency’s Letters of the 20 & 21 Inst; the last of which came to hand yesterday evening, and am much obliged for the matters of intelligence they contain, although some of them do not entirely correspond with our wishes.
I am concerned for the situation of Capn. Landais, as he has been esteemed an officer of merit, and as his indisposition has deprived us of recent and more than probable important advices. His not bringing more arms &c is rather unlucky, but their coming in the Ariel, should she arrive safe, which I flatter myself will be the case, will prevent any material inconvenience from the omission.
The British fleet, I should hope, would not be able to keep the second division blocked up after the arrival of the combined one, which had sailed from Cadiz, and if the Enemy have not avoided an engagement which I think is rather to be suspected, I hope our next advices will announce, that they have been most soundly beaten in a general combat.
The intelligence respecting the Irish Militia’s driving the English out of the Forts is pleasing and interesting and must be embarrassing to the British Ministry. It must be the more so from the internal ferments and insurrections which have taken place within England and which are confirmed thro a variety of Channels. But I am afraid those tumults will not do more than embarrass and will not result in any thing decisively favorable to the common cause. It appears the Ministry were about taking vigorous measures to punish us.
From the information brought by the Vessel arrived at Boston from St. Domingo, it appears that the Count de Guichen was on the point of sailing from thence on the 2d Inst—and would in a few days complete all his arrangements and proceed to Jamaica. I hope these will all have been finished—and that we shall soon have the pleasure to hear of the entire reduction of this very important Island.
Your conjectures about an expedition to Martha’s Vinyard &c. are by no means improbable,—as the Enemy have been there before, and collected large supplies of fresh provision. I fear even if the Inhabitants are apprized of it, that it will not prevent them from effecting their purposes.
I am much obliged by the honor you did me in announcing your intention to celebrate the anniversary of St. Louis; and I am persuaded the neighboring States will be sensible of your politeness in the precaution you took to prevent any alarm, as well as feel a lively participation in a compliment paid to a prince towards whom they have so many motives of gratitude and veneration.
The enemy will probably not admire the spectacle, as I dare say they will have no reason to felicitate themselves on the state of your batteries—
I have been much concerned on account of the Report which has just reached me, tho’ not officially, that an Express has been intercepted on the other side of the North River and carried into New York, who had come from thence, lest it should have been the One charged with a Letter I had the honor of writing You on the 21st of this month.—I hope it has not been the case, but from the apprehension I am under on the occasion I have thought it proper to inclose You a Copy. The place where the Express is said to have been intercepted is a considerable distance from the Enemy’s Outpost at Kingsbridge, but in future a still more inland route will be used.
I have, &c.
P. S. I have just heard from New York that several Transports, which have been wooding and watering are returning to England. It is added that they carry some Invalids. Possibly this may serve as a solution of the Reports we have had about an embarkation.
CIRCULAR LETTER TO THE STATES NORTH OF VIRGINIA.
Head Quarters near the Liberty Pole,
The Honble the Committee of Cooperation having returned to Congress, I am under the disagreeable necessity of informing your Excellency, that the Army is again reduced to an extremity of distress, for want of provisions. The greater part of it has been without meat from the 21st to the 26th. To endeavor to obtain some relief, I moved down to this place, with a view of stripping the lower parts of the Country of the remainder of its Cattle, which after a most rigorous exaction is found to afford between two and three days, supply only, and those consisting of Milch Cows and Calves [of one or two] years old: when this scanty pittance is consumed, I know not what will be our next resource, as the Commissary can give me no certain information of more than 120 head of Cattle expected from Pennsylvania and about 150 from Massachusetts. I mean in time to supply our immediate wants.
Military coercion is no longer of any avail, as nothing further can possibly be collected from the Country in which we are obliged to take a position without depriving the inhabitants of the last morsel. This mode of subsisting, supposing the desired end will be answered by it, besides being in the highest degree distressing to individuals, is attended with ruin to the Morals and Discipline of the Army—During the few days which we have been obliged to send out small parties to procure provision for themselves, the most enormous excesses have been committed. It has been no inconsiderable support of our cause, to have had it in our power to contrast the conduct of our Army, with that of the Enemy, and to convince the inhabitants, that while their rights were wantonly violated by the British Troops, by ours they were respected— This distinction must unhappily now cease, and we must assume the odious character of the Plunderers, instead of the Protectors of the people, the direct consequence of which must be, to alienate their minds from the Army, and insensibly from the cause.
We have not yet been absolutely without Flour but we have thus far but one day’s supply in Camp, and I am not certain that there is a single Barrel between this place and Trenton. I shall be obliged therefore to draw down, one or two hundred Barrels, from a small Magazine, which I had endeavored to establish at West Point, for the security of the Garrison in case of sudden investiture.
From the above state of facts, it may be foreseen that this Army cannot possibly remain much longer together unless very vigorous and immediate measures are taken by the States to comply with the requisitions made upon them. The Commissary General has neither the means nor the power of procuring supplies—he is only to receive them from the several Agents. Without a speedy change of circumstances, this dilemma will be involved: either the Army must disband,—or what is if possible worse, subsist upon the plunder of the People. I would fain flatter myself, that a knowledge of our situation will produce the desired relief—not a relief of a few days as has generally heretofore been the case, but a supply equal to the establishment of Magazines for the Winter.—If these are not formed before the roads are broken up by the weather, we shall certainly experience the same difficulties and distresses the ensuing winter which we did the last. Altho’ the Troops have upon every occasion hitherto borne their wants with unparralled patience, it will be dangerous to trust too often to a repetition of the causes of discontent.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL HEATH.
Head-Quarters, 28 August, 1780.
I have received your letter of the 22d.
The late European intelligence has so altered the immediate prospects of the campaign, that I think it advisable to dismiss the militia now in service, and prevent any other coming out for the present. You will, therefore, let those now with you return home, as soon as their services are no longer thought necessary by Count de Rochambeau; for, as the probability of operating in this quarter is greatly diminished, and that of an operation elsewhere remote, it becomes our duty to reduce our expenses and economize our supplies as much as possible.
With respect to what you mention concerning the works erecting on Butts’s hill, if our allies expect we are to contribute to the expense of it, we shall be obliged in delicacy to do it; but, if it could have been avoided, it would have better suited the present state of our affairs. I do not consider the works raising on the Island as of any great utility to us, farther than as they contribute to the safety of our allies; and the expense, which may be incurred, will, in my opinion, have little other equivalent than this. You will therefore easily conceive, that I should be glad that every thing of this kind might be avoided, so far as it can be done without impeaching the generosity of the States; for, while our allies are sending fleets and armies to our assistance, and maintaining them at their own expense in our country, it might not be decent to refuse bearing such little expenses as they seem to expect us to bear. But we ought not to volunteer any thing of this kind, and I am persuaded you will not. You will act agreeable to these ideas.1 With respect to the culprits you mention, you have my consent to pardon such of them as you think proper. I omitted acknowledging your two favors of the 19th. You will accept D. Cook’s resignation in the usual forms. I am, with great regard, &c.
TO JAMES BOWDOIN, PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL OF
|States.||Quotas.||Regiments.||Place of Rendezvous.|
|Pennsylvania||3465||7||Easton and Trenton|
|Maryland||2205||4||Head of Elk|
On June 1st Washington received a handbill from New York announcing the surrender of Charleston on the 12th of May. “The particulars are not given; some leading matters are mentioned, but they are probably either false or exaggerated. There are circumstances of suspicion attending this account, but as it is announced by authority, I cannot suppose it to be a forgery, but believe the general facts of a surrender to be true. The conditions may be more or less advantageous.”—Washington to Governor Trumbull, 1 June, 1780.
[1 ]General Weedon had retired from the service, while the army was at Valley Forge, on account of some difficulty with General Woodford respecting rank. Mr. Jones had inquired whether he could not be restored, so as to have a command in the line at large. In his reply to the above letter Mr. Jones wrote: “Congress have been gradually surrendering or throwing upon the several States the exercise of powers, which they should have claimed, and to their utmost have exercised themselves, till at length they have scarcely a power left, but such as concerns foreign transactions; for, as to the army, Congress is at present little more than the medium through which the wants of the army are conveyed to the States. This body never had, or at least in few instances ever exercised, powers adequate to the purposes of war; and indeed such as they possessed have been frittered away to the States, and it will be found, I fear, very difficult to recover them. A resolution was passed the other day, desiring the States to inform us what they had done upon certain requirements for some time past, that we might know upon what to rely. This may serve as a basis for assuming powers, should the answers afford an opening. Other resolutions are now before us, by one of which the States are desired to give express powers to call forth men, provisions, and money for carrying on the war for the common defence. Others go to the assumption of them immediately. The first I have no doubt will pass this body, but I expect it will sleep with the States. The others I believe will die where they are; for, so cautious are some of offending the States in this respect, that a gentleman the other day plainly told us, upon a proposition to order some armed vessels to search the vessels going out, with a view to prevent the exportation of flour, that, if an embargo was laid in the Delaware as in this State, he would consent to the measure, otherwise he never would agree to such an exercise of power.”
[1 ]“It is expected that the fleet of our ally will in the first instance touch at Rhode Island, for the purpose of landing their sick and supernumerary stores, and to meet the intelligence necessary to direct their operations. I have already sent forward Docr. Craik to take up proper houses for hospitals, and to make some previous arrangements in that department; but, as I apprehend the French General and Admiral will, upon their arrival, want the advice and assistance of a person of discretion and judgment, and acquainted with the Country, I must request you to repair immediately to Providence, and upon their arrival present yourself to them, letting them know that they may command your services. I would wish you to endeavor, in conjunction with the governor, to establish a market between the Fleet and Army and Country, and be careful that our Allies are not imposed upon in the prices of articles, which they may find necessary. This is a point recommended in the plan drawn up by the ministry of France, and which policy and generosity direct should be strictly attended to.”—Washington to Major-General Heath, 2 June, 1780.
[1 ]“In my letter of the 10th instant I urged you to collect all your force for the immediate defence of the posts of West Point and its dependencies. I hope it will be done before this reaches you; but, if any part of your force remains divided, you will instantly call it in, and keep yourself compact, whatever temptations may be thrown out to induce you to detach. If the enemy’s designs should be against this army, you may be useful to us by making a demonstration in your quarter. I would therefore have you collect a number of boats at West Point, sufficient for two thousand men; put the garrison under moving orders with three days’ provisions; circulate ideas of having the militia ready for a sudden call; apply to Governor Trumbull for the advance of the Connecticut State regiments; and take such other steps as may make a noise, without overdoing the matter, and give the enemy some alarm.
“You can also send some emissary into New York with these particulars, so colored as to give them the greatest likelihood of making the desired impression You may instruct him to tell the enemy, that he was sent in to find out the general state and disposition of the force on the Island of New York; but that his inquiries were more particularly to be directed to the magazines at Fort Washington and other places accessible by water. If any movements of the enemy should come to your knowledge, which announce an immediate attempt upon your post, you will give notice to the governor of Connecticut, and solicit succor from that State. I have desired General McDougall to join you without delay.”—Washington to Major-General Howe, 15 June, 1780.
[1 ]“On Tuesday night the enemy landed at Elizabeth Town point with all the force they could draw from New York and its dependencies, under the command of General Knyphausen, and proceeded the next morning into the country about 7 miles, within half a mile of this place. At night they retired to the point of debarcation, where they have remained ever since. In their advance they were most spiritedly opposed by the Jersey troops, which lay in the neighborhood, and by such of the militia as had an opportunity, from their situation and the suddenness of the occasion, to turn out, and there is reason to believe they were a good deal galled. Brigadier-General Stirling, it seems from good authority, was wounded in the thigh soon after they debarked by our picket. This movement of the enemy brought the army to this post on Wednesday last. The cause which justifies this insulting manœuvre on their part most deeply affects the honor of the States—a vindication of which could not be attempted in the present situation of the army, without most eminently hazarding their security—at least so far as it might depend upon the safety of the latter. Such is our weak, diminished condition. Our character, our interest, our all that is dear, demand that the States should without the least delay fill their battalions according to their established complement. If this is not done, we cannot coöperate with the force so generously coming from our ally on any large scale, and [we] may, however flattering our views of success may be thought by many, easily become a ruined and undone people.”—Washington to Governor Bowdoin, 14 June, 1780.
[1 ]On the 18th, Washington learned through General Forman of Clinton’s return from the southward, and at once wrote to Howe to be prepared for an attack. Governor Clinton was to be called upon for 2,500 militia, and reinforcements asked from Connecticut and Massachusetts. “Put everything in activity as far as may be in your power, and be well upon your guard. The movements of the enemy will probably be rapid, and a correspondent spirit of energy should animate our efforts.” General Glover was ordered to Massachusetts and General Parsons to Connecticut, to urge forward the recruits. Knox was despatched to lay the urgency of the situation before Governor Livingston.
[1 ]“From the vast importance of the thing, I hoped that I should have been informed before this, of the measures which the several States meant to adopt, in consequence of your late requisitions; but, as I have not, I am certain you are unadvised yourselves, and have only to lament with you the delay. This is a point of primary consequence. We are now arrived at the period when we may momently expect the Fleet from France. For want of information it has been impossible for me to digest a System of coöperation. I have no data on which to proceed, and of course, were the Armament to come, I should find myself in the most delicate, embarrassing, and cruel situation. The French Commanders, from the relation in which I stand, the instant they reach our Coast will look to me for a plan of the measures to be pursued, and I ought of right to have one prepared; but I cannot even give them conjectures. The interest of the States, the reputation of their Councils, the justice and gratitude due to our Allies, a regard for my own Character, all demand, that I should without delay be enabled to ascertain and inform them what we can or cannot undertake.
“Besides, there is a point now to be determined, on which the success of all our future operations may turn, which, for want of knowing our prospects, I am altogether at a loss what to do in. To avoid involving the Fleet and Army of our allies in circumstances which, if not seconded by us, would expose them to material inconvenience and hazard, I shall be obliged to suspend a step, the delay of which may be fatal to our hopes. I therefore beg leave to suggest to the Committee the indispensable necessity of writing again to the different States, urging them to give immediate and precise information of the measures they have taken, the success they have had, and the probable result of them.”—Washington to the Committee of Coöperation, 19 June, 1780.
[1 ]It will be seen by an extract from General Clinton’s letter to Lord George Germaine relating to this subject, that, so far from having any design against West Point, his object was to seek a place of security where be could give rest to his troops, just returned from the fatigues of a southern campaign.
“I arrived in New York from the south,” he wrote, “on the 17th of June, and found that General Knyphausen had made a move with the army into Jersey. At my arrival they were between Elizabethtown Creek and Newark. Washington’s army was at Chatham, and an advanced corps at Connecticut Farms. In the present circumstances I could not think of keeping the field in Jersey. Washington’s retreat gave me little time for deliberation. To avail myself, however, as much as I could, of our situation, I ordered, previously to quitting Jersey, a strong detachment under General Mathew, well supported by Knyphausen, to move to the last division of the rebel army and press it if possible, whilst I put the troops, just arrived from Carolina and already landed on Staten Island, afloat again, and repaired in person to Haverstraw Bay, the transports following me to Phillipsburg. I was thus in readiness to take advantage of any unguarded march the enemy might make to succor the corps attacked; or, finding no enemy for offence (as was the event), to land the troops and give a camp of rest to an army, of which many corps had had an uninterrupted campaign of fourteen months. The attack of the rear of Washington’s army was conducted with judgment and spirit. The enemy were forced from two strong positions, and the troops, after remaining some hours in Springfield, retired according to my orders, and that evening without molestation evacuated Jersey, bringing off the bridge of boats, which had been thrown across the Staten Island Sound.”—MS. Letter, July 4th.
[1 ]Read 27th. Referred to Committee of Intelligence.
[1 ]This was in reply to a letter in which Mr. Reed had written: “The ladies have caught the happy contagion, and in a few days Mrs. Reed will have the honor of writing to you on the subject. It is expected she will have a sum equal to one hundred thousand pounds to be laid out according to your Excellency’s direction, in such a way as may be thought most honorable and gratifying to the brave old soldiers, who have borne so great a share of the burden of this war. I thought it best to mention it in this way to your Excellency for your consideration, as it may tend to forward the benevolent scheme of the donors with despatch. I must observe, that the ladies have excepted such articles of necessity as clothing, which the States are bound to provide. We have just heard, that Mrs. Washington is on the road to this city, so that we shall have the benefit of her advice and assistance here, and if necessary refer afterwards to your Excellency.”—MS. Letter, June 20th.
A further account of this contribution was communicated in a letter from Mrs. Reed to General Washington, in which she wrote as follows:
“The subscription set on foot by the ladies of this city for the use of the soldiers is so far completed, as to induce me to transmit to your Excellency an account of the money I have received, which, although it has answered our expectations, does not equal our wishes. But I am persuaded it will be received as a proof of our zeal for the great cause of America, and of our esteem and gratitude for those, who so bravely defend it. The amount of the subscription is 200,580 dollars, and £625, 6s. 8d. in specie, which make in the whole in paper money 300,634 dollars. The ladies are anxious for the soldiers to receive the benefit of it, and wait your directions how it can best be disposed of. We expect considerable additions from the country; and I have also written to the other States in hopes that the ladies there will adopt a similar plan to render it more general and beneficial.”—Philadelphia, July 4th.
The depreciation at this time was a little more than forty for one. Hence the actual amount subscribed in specie value was about seven thousand five hundred dollars.
The example was followed by ladies in New Jersey. Miss Mary Dagworthy wrote to the Commander-in-chief: “By order of Mrs. Dickinson and the other ladies of the committee, I have transmitted to your Excellency fifteen thousand four hundred and eighty-eight dollars, being the subscriptions received at this place, to be disposed of in such manner as your Excellency shall think proper for the benefit of the Continental soldiers. As the other subscriptions come in, they will be forwarded without delay.”—Trenton, July 17th. This amount also is estimated in the depreciated currency.
[1 ]“I cannot forbear entreating your Excellency to give all your aid to the execution of the measures recommended by the Committee of Congress. I assure you with the greatest sincerity that nothing short of them will answer our purpose, and that I am fully persuaded from a general view of European and American affairs, the fate of our cause depends on the exertions of this campaign. The sparing system has been too long tried by many of the States, ’till it has brought us to a crisis little less than desperate; and if the opportunity now before us be neglected, I fear it will be too late to retrieve our affairs. As I always speak to your Excellency in the confidence of friendship, I scruple not to confess, that the prevailing politics for a considerable time past have filled me with inexpressible anxiety and apprehension, and have uniformly appeared to me to threaten the subversion of our independence. Happy will it be if a period to them is now arrived, and a change of measures intervenes to save us from ruin.”—Washington to Governor Clinton, 27 June, 1780. A similar letter was sent to Governor Trumbull.
The following particulars, contained in a letter from M. de la Luzerne to Count de Vergennes, afford an explanation of some of the opinions and motives, which at this time influenced both parties in the contest.
“After the taking of Charleston the English practised much greater moderation towards the inhabitants of the south, than they had done towards those of the middle and eastern States. Their plan was to sever the Carolinas and Georgia, and they seemed at this time to have abandoned the idea of reducing the northern States. They commenced publishing a gazette at Charleston, in which they circulated insinuations, that the northern States had abandoned the south, and that they were about to make an arrangement with England, which would exclude the Carolinas and Georgia. These attempts had an effect. The members of Congress are divided as to their interests and objects. Some are for using all efforts for rescuing the south. Others think the people there have shown too little zeal and activity in the cause, and that it is not expedient to put in jeopardy the safety of the north by rendering extraordinary aid to people, who are so indifferent about their own independence. One party speaks secretly of an expedition against Canada, another magnifies the difficulties of taking New York; one insists on an expedition to the south during the summer, and another is for a combined enterprise against Quebec. The British at the south talk of peace, and encourage the people to return to their former allegiance. It is possible that the British will make a proposition to the ten northern States tending to assure their independence; and their scheme will be to form into a new government the two Carolinas, Georgia, East Florida, and the Bahama Islands, which together would make a respectable possession.”—MS. Letter, June 24th.
A letter from Mr. Duane in Congress to General Schuyler confirms in part the impressions above communicated. “That the reinforcements to the southward should be halted,” said he, “is obvious for the reasons you assign. But do you expect such a proposition from a northern member, deeply interested in strengthening the main army? It is a question of the utmost delicacy and even danger; for, however groundlessly, an opinion has been propagated, that Congress means to sacrifice the two southernmost States, and it has been productive of the greatest animosity and discontent. We have privately stated the subject to some of the southern gentlemen, who, though I believe convinced of the propriety of the measure, did not choose, after great deliberation, to have it adopted, much less to propose it. There is but one person from whom it can originate with any prospect of success. If we had undertaken it, nothing would have resulted but disappointment and the loss of personal confidence.”—MS. Letter, May 21st.—Sparks.
[1 ]Mr. Livingston had suggested his fears, that General Howe, in case of an exigency, would not inspire such a degree of confidence in the New York militia, as would be essential for engaging their efficient services. He solicited the appointment for General Arnold. “If I might presume so far,” he said, “I should beg leave to submit to your Excellency, whether this post might not be safely confided to General Arnold, whose courage is undoubted, who is the favorite of our militia, and who will agree perfectly with our governor.”—MS. Letter, June 22d.
Arnold had some time before written on the same subject to General Schuyler, who was then in camp as one of the committee from Congress. “I know not,” said Arnold, “who is to have the command on the North River. If General Heath joins the army, as I am told he intends, that post will of course, I suppose, fall under his command. When I requested leave of absence from General Washington for the summer, it was under the idea, that it would be a very inactive campaign, and that my services would be of little consequence, as my wounds made it very painful for me to walk or ride. The prospect now seems to be altered, and there is a probability of an active campaign, in which, though attended with pain and difficulty, I wish to render my country every service in my power; and, by the advice of my friends, I am determined to join the army; with which I beg you will do me the favor to acquaint General Washington, that I may be included in any arrangement that may be made.”—MS. Letter, May 25th.
The application, on the part of Mr. Livingston, was no doubt made at the request of General Arnold, who immediately afterwards visited the camp and West Point. On the 30th of June, General Howe wrote to General Washington from that post: “I have taken General Arnold round our works and he has my opinion of them, and of many other matters. I have long wished to give it to you, but I could not convey it by letter.”
[1 ]At General Lincoln’s request, Congress had passed a resolve, directing the Commander-in-chief to cause an inquiry to be made concerning the loss of Charleston, and the conduct of General Lincoln while commanding in the Southern Department.
[1 ]When this letter was considered in Congress, a resolve was passed, “That General Washington be authorized to effectuate an exchange of officers, either on the footing of equal rank, or on composition, or both, as the cases may respectively require, confining the exchange on that of composition to officers only, and having due regard to the order of captivity; such exchange to be rendered as extensive as possible in its execution, so as not only to include, on the part of the enemy, prisoners of war, but also the officers of the convention troops, now on parole at New York.”—Journals, August 7th.
[1 ]Read in Congress July 17th, Referred to Bee, Lovell, and Scott.
[1 ]Read in Congress, July 17th.
“It cannot be too much lamented that our preparations are still so greatly behind-hand. Not a thousand men that I have heard of have yet joined the army; and in all probability the period for commencing our operations is at hand. I am happy to learn that a spirit of animation has diffused itself throughout the States, from which we may expect the happiest consequences. But the exigency is so pressing that we ought to multiply our efforts to give new activity and despatch to our measures, levying and forwarding the men, providing the supplies of every sort required: forage and transportation demand particular attention. After what had been preconcerted with the Honorable the Congress, after two months previous notice of the intended succor; if our allies find us unprepared, and are obliged to wait several weeks in a state of inaction, it is easy to conceive how unfavorable the impressions it will make of our conduct. Besides this, the season is exceedingly advanced, a decisive enterprise, if our means are equal to it, will not permit us to lose a moment of the time left for military operations, which, if improved with all the vigor in our power, is less than were to be wished for an undertaking of so arduous and important a nature. So much is at stake—so much to be hoped—so much to be lost—that we shall be inexcusable, if we do not employ all our zeal and all our exertion.”—Washington to the Committee of Co-operation, 13 July, 1780.
[1 ]“You have totally misconceived my meaning, if you think I have or shall relinquish the idea of an enterprise against New York, till it shall appear obviously impracticable, from the want of force or means to operate. I have not as yet relaxed in any preparation tending to this end; nor shall I, till I am convinced of the futility of the measure. I would, by all means, have it understood as my wish, that the French squadron, if superior to Arbuthnot’s since the junction, should take a station, while it can do it with safety, off Sandy Hook. This, and our exertions in the mean while, will demonstrate, long before the equinoctial gales, to what we are competent.
“What I had in view, by discouraging the first draft of the letter to the French general and admiral, was, first, with our ignorance of their strength, I thought we ought not to give them more than the information of Graves’s arrival; and, secondly, not to hold up strong ideas of success, which probably would not be warranted by the issue; because I never wish to promise more than I have a moral certainty of performing.”—Washington to the Marquis de Lafayette, 16 July, 1780.
The New York paper of the 14th announced the arrival of Admiral Graves on the 13th with a “formidable squadron” to reinforce Admiral Arbuthnot. From private information Washington learned that this squadron consisted of six vessels, the London (90 guns), Resolution (74), Bedford (74), Royal Oak (74), Prudent (64) and America (60). This gave the English a greater naval force than the French possessed.
[1 ]Letters were also received from General Heath. “I arrived here last night,” said he, “and this morning I had the honor of congratulating M. de Rochambeau and M. de Ternay on their safe arrival. The inhabitants appear disposed to treat our allies with much respect. The town, by a vote of the inhabitants, is to be illuminated this evening. I am myself charmed with the officers. Count de Rochambeau has desired me to publish an advertisement inviting the inhabitants to bring small meats, vegetables, and the like, to market, and that they shall receive hard money in payment. This the Count intended with a good view to our currency. I have told him it would have a different effect. I shall therefore only assure the farmers, that they will receive a handsome price.”—Newport, July 12th.
Again: “The French troops are landed, and encamped in a fine situation south-east of the town, and extend nearly across the Island. They make a good appearance. The legion under the command of the Duke de Lauzun, the officer who took Senegal last year, is as fine a corps as I have ever seen. It is about six hundred strong. The officers express the highest satisfaction with the treatment they receive. The markets are become very good, and great regularity is preserved. In short, hitherto every thing appears agreeable and satisfactory.”—July 16th.
[1 ]Alluding to the harbor of New York. The Chevalier de Ternay declined attempting to pass Sandy Hook, in any event, being convinced, as he said, by the experience of Count d’Estaing, and by such charts as he had examined, that such an attempt with his large ships would be extremely hazardous. “I have therefore concluded,” he wrote, “that, if it is possible to sustain the fleet at Long Island without entering the Hook, this arrangement will be preferable on all accounts. I will combat the English squadron at sea, should it attempt to oppose the passage of troops. All my vessels are actually without water. I have landed thirteen hundred men sick. It was with difficulty that I was enabled to supply the wants of the frigates, which I despatched yesterday to endeavor to intercept some of the enemy’s vessels.”—MS. Letter to Lafayette, July 16th.
[1 ]From the Orderly Book.—“The Commander-in-chief has the pleasure to congratulate the army on the arrival of a large land and naval armament at Rhode Island, sent by his Most Christian Majesty to co-operate with the troops of these States against the common enemy, accompanied with every circumstance that can render it honorable and useful. The generosity of this succor, and the manner in which it is given, is a new tie between France and America. The lively concern, which our allies manifest for our safety and independence, has a claim to the affection of every virtuous citizen. The General with confidence assures the army, that the officers and men of the French forces come to our aid, animated with a zeal founded in sentiment for us, as well as in duty to their prince, and that they will do every thing in their power to promote harmony and cultivate friendship. He is equally persuaded, that on our part we shall vie with them in their good dispositions, to which we are excited by gratitude as well as by a common interest; and that the only contention between the two armies will be to excel each other in good offices, and in the display of military virtue. This will be the pledge of the most solid advantages to the common cause, and of a glorious issue to the campaign.”—July 20th.
[1 ]Read in Congress July 31st. Referred to Adams, McKean, Sherman, Laurens, and Clark.
[1 ]Col. Daniel Morgan. See Journals of Congress, 13 October, 1780.
[1 ]See note p. 297 ante.
[1 ]Mr. Hoakesley, wagon-master to the British army which capitulated at Saratoga, had lately returned to New York from Charlottesville, and reported that the prisoners were not properly supplied with provisions. General Phillips, in representing the matter to Sir Henry Clinton, used the following language: “Such severities and hardships upon the troops of convention will force them to disperse and desert, and in doing so to cease from abiding by the treaty of Saratoga, which the Americans perhaps wish to have dissolved. By this starving, as it were, the troops of convention, they are driven to seek refuge in the country, or, by deserting, to become prisoners of war, under the supposition that, in detached and scattered parties, they may be able to procure provisions, which seem to be denied them in a collected body.” A copy of the letter containing these words was enclosed to General Washington by Sir Henry Clinton, who added: “You cannot but be informed, Sir, that our conduct towards your prisoners here is humane and liberal, and I am persuaded your wish must be to maintain this system of benevolence towards men, who have the misfortune of enduring captivity.”—July 19th.
[1 ]On the 19th, four British vessels appeared off the harbor of Newport, and the next morning, as soon as the wind would permit, three frigates of the French squadron went in pursuit of them; and two days afterwards nine or ten British vessels of the line came in sight, with five frigates and four small vessels. The three French frigates and a despatch boat were chased into the harbor. The British fleet continued near Block Island. From these movements it was evidently the object of the British commander to blockade the French squadron; and an attack was also feared before preparations could be made to resist it. General Heath immediately ordered Colonel Greene’s regiment of Continental troops, and the recruits for that service, to take post at Howland’s Ferry, Bristol Ferry, and Butts’s Hill. He called on the governor of Rhode Island for fifteen hundred militia, and requested eight hundred more from Bristol County in Massachusetts. He likewise wrote to the Council of Massachusetts, desiring that all the militia in the State, who had been detached to serve for three months in the main army, except those in Hampshire and Berkshire counties should be sent immediately to Newport. A like requisition was made on Governor Trumbull for one thousand militia from Connecticut. With these forces, if they could be speedily collected, Count de Rochambeau thought he should be able to withstand an attack.
The Marquis de Lafayette arrived at Newport on the 25th of July, and intelligence had already come from various quarters, that Sir Henry Clinton was preparing to proceed in person from New York, with a large part of his army, to give battle to the French. The most vigorous efforts were made to meet the event. As Lafayette was well acquainted with the environs of Newport, having examined them at the time of General Sullivan’s expedition, the French officers arranged with him a plan of defence. Connanicut Island was to be abandoned, and all the force to be concentrated on Rhode Island. The transports were to be secured in the harbor, and the ships to be stationed at anchor from Brenton’s Point northward, where they would be protected by batteries. A frigate and a cutter were to be placed in Seaconnet Passage. The army was to remain encamped at its usual station, till the enemy should appear, and then move and attack them wherever they should disembark. If unsuccessful, the troops were to retreat and rally behind the old lines, which had been thrown up by the British, and there maintain a defence. A body of militia was likewise to be posted within those lines.—MS. Letters of Lafayette and Heath, July 21st, 26th.—Sparks.
[1 ]“We are thus far [Peekskill], my dear Marquis, on our way to New York. To-morrow the whole army was to have taken up its line of march, and would have moved with all the rapidity in our power to this object, had we not a few hours since received advice from the Sound, dated yesterday, that the fleet of transports had put back, and were steering westward. Colonel Sheldon, by a letter this instant come to hand, writes me to the same effect. We shall therefore govern our subsequent motions agreeably to our original plan.”—Washington to Lafayette, 1 August, 1780.
[1 ]By advices, which Sir Henry Clinton had received from the Ministry, he was prepared to expect the French armament; and other intelligence had convinced him, that its destination was probably Rhode Island. This opinion he communicated seasonably to Admiral Arbuthnot, and requested that transports for six thousand men might be kept in readiness to receive troops, in case an enterprise should be deemed expedient as soon as the French should arrive. Although the French fleet entered the harbor of Newport on the 10th of July, the news did not reach New York till the 18th. Sir Henry Clinton determined, nevertheless, to attempt an attack either by land or by a combined operation with the fleet and immediately gave notice of his design to the admiral. He proceeded with his troops to Frog’s Neck, but the transports did not arrive till the 27th, when it was too late to hope for success by a coup de main. He embarked his troops; but, receiving information that the French had been very active in fortifying themselves at Newport, and that the militia were assembling at that place, he considered it impossible to secure success by land forces alone, and crossed the Sound to Huntington Bay, where the troops were disembarked on the 31st. The approach of Washington to New York also rendered it necessary for him to hasten back. By his first plan he hoped, with the aid of the fleet, to make a rapid descent upon Rhode Island, and return to New York before Washington should be able to move with his army upon that city. His scheme was defeated by the delay in furnishing transports. There was a want of harmony between Admiral Arbuthnot and Sir Henry Clinton, which already began to produce ill effects, and which in the end proved very unfavorable to the public service.—Sparks.
[1 ]The militia had come in with great promptness and alacrity from Rhode Island and Massachusetts. As soon as it was known, that General Clinton had suspended or abandoned his enterprise against Newport, it was agreed between General Heath and Count de Rochambeau, that all the militia should be sent home except three thousand five hundred. Of these, two thousand were stationed between Quaker Hill and the town, and the remainder at Butts’s Hill. The militia, that were retained, had been called out to serve for three months.
[2 ]“As to your wish to join the army, as I have observed before, your aid may be very material to the Count; and, as we have no prospect of immediate active operations, I would rather wish you to remain with him longer. I thought it essential, in the first instance, that there should be an officer of rank sent to him; and a variety of reasons concurred to induce me to believe, that you would answer the important objects I had in view as well, at least, as any I could choose. I have not been disappointed in the least in my expectations; and the Count himself judges your continuing very essential, and expressed himself in the following manner upon the subject several days ago. ‘I shall keep with me, if you think proper, General Heath, whose ardor, spirit, and activity are absolutely necessary to me.’ For these several considerations, I wish you to reconcile yourself to remaining with him for a while; which will be the more easy, when you consider that you will be fully advertised, whenever we are in a situation to attempt any thing offensive on a great scale, and will have your command.
“On further consideration the Rhode Island militia, or three months’ men, will not proceed till further orders, or till the French troops advance.”—Washington to Major-General Heath, 17 August, 1780.
[1 ]Although there had been various intimations to the Commander-in-chief, that Arnold wished the command at West Point, yet he had delayed conferring it, probably because he considered the services of so efficient an officer much more important in the main army. In the arrangement of the army, therefore, published in general orders on the 1st of August, the command of the left wing was assigned to Arnold. When it was found, that he was disappointed and dissatisfied, and complained that his wound would not allow him to act in the field, Washington complied with his request to be stationed at West Point.
[1 ]Mr. Jones had written from Congress: “We have been greatly perplexed the last week with General Greene’s refusal to act in the office of quartermaster-general, unless the new system was totally repealed, and he was allowed to conduct it under your direction in such a manner as he should think most conducive to the public service. If General Greene thought the new system wanted amendment, and had pointed out the defect, Congress would have considered the matter, and I doubt not would have made the necessary alteration. But the manner of these demands, made in such peremptory terms at the moment of action, when the campaign was opened, the enemy in the field, and our ally waiting for coöperation, has lessened General Greene, not only in the opinion of Congress, but I think of the public; and I question whether it will terminate with the acceptance of his refusal only.
“On Saturday Colonel Pickering was appointed to the office of quartermaster-general, with the rank of Colonel and the pay and rations of a brigadier-general, and to hold his seat at the Board of War without pay or right to act while in the office of quartermaster-general. This gentleman’s integrity, ability, and attention to business will, I hope, not only prevent the evils to be apprehended from a change in so important a department at this time, but be able to reform some of the abuses, which have crept into that business.”
[1 ]“As you are retiring from the office of quartermaster-general, and have requested my sense of your conduct and services while you acted in it, I shall give it to you with the greatest cheerfulness and pleasure. You have conducted the various duties of it with capacity and diligence, entirely to my satisfaction, and, as far as I have had an opportunity of knowing, with the strictest integrity. When you were prevailed on to undertake the office, in March, 1778, it was in great disorder and confusion, and by extraordinary exertions you so arranged it, as to enable the army to take the field the moment it was necessary, and to move with rapidity after the enemy when they left Philadelphia. From that period to the present time, your exertions have been equally great. They have appeared to me to be the result of a system, and to have been well calculated to promote the interest and honor of your country. In fine, I cannot but add, that the States have had in you, in my opinion, an able, upright, and diligent servant.”—Washington to Major-General Greene, 15 August, 1780.
[1 ]M. de Ternay objected to the Delaware as the place for the rendezvous of the second French squadron expected soon to arrive in the American waters, on account of the difficult navigation of that bay for large ships, and the danger of being blockaded there by the British fleet. He considered Boston harbor as more secure, and as affording greater advantages for future operations. The merchant vessels, which were convoyed by the fleet of the second division, he thought might enter the Delaware. “I write accordingly,” said he, “to M. de la Luzerne, that, if the second division should arrive in the Chesapeake Bay, it may be at the option of Count de Rochambeau or General Washington to cause the transport vessels to enter the Delaware, and that afterwards the vessels of war should proceed to Boston.”
It was the advice of the French admiral, that the American frigates should cruise on the coast, to intercept British vessels sailing from Charleston to New York. He requested that the sloop Saratoga might be sent to St. Domingo with despatches to Count de Guichen, who was then commanding a French squadron in the West Indies. It was hoped that Guichen would join the French armament in the United States, and thus form a decided superiority to the British naval force, by which a successful combined attack might be made on New York. M. de Ternay had instructions from the King to call on M. de Guichen for a reinforcement.
[1 ]Hitherto the operations of the Commander-in-chief had been restricted within the limits of the United States. To enable him to act effectually in concert with the French forces, it seemed necessary to remove this restriction, which was done by a resolution of Congress on the 2d of August. In the vote on this question, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Virginia, were unanimously in the affirmative; Maryland, North Carolina, and South Carolina were unanimously in the negative; Georgia was divided; Connecticut and Pennsylvania gave one negative vote each, but the majority of the delegates were in the affirmative. It was singular that South Carolina and Georgia should oppose the resolution, as it was mainly intended to enable the Commander-in-chief to operate with more vigor, in concert with the French, and with the Spanish in the West Indies, to drive the enemy from those two States.—See the Secret Journals of Congress, vol. i., p. 161.—Sparks.
[1 ]Read in Congress August 28th. Referred to Adams, J. Jones, McKean, Scott, and Cornell.
[1 ]After the Marquis de Lafayette returned from Newport, he wrote a very long letter to Count de Rochambeau, containing a plan for an attack upon New York, and recommending it to the adoption of the French general and admiral. This letter was written with the approbation of General Washington, but it did not accord with the views of the French commanders, who believed that one of the three following conditions ought to be verified, before it would be advisable to act on the offensive. First, the arrival of the second division of French troops, with a maritime force sufficient to give a superiority to the French fleet. Secondly, succors from Count de Guichen, after his enterprise in the West Indies. Thirdly, a decrease of the enemy’s force at New York, by a detachment to the West Indies or the southern States. Unless one of these cases should occur, Count de Rochambeau had laid it down as an axiom, that he was to remain on the defensive. He was not well pleased, therefore, with Lafayette’s letter, and he presented his objections to the plan of an attack, which it contained. The above explanation was in reply to the letter, in which those objections were stated.
Count de Rochambeau touches upon the matter in his Mémoires. He gives an account of the particulars, and adds: “I ought to say, nevertheless, in justification of Lafayette, that he expressed substantially the sentiments of General Washington. That commander feared, and not without foundation, considering the absolute discredit of the finances of Congress, that the struggles of this campaign would be the last efforts of expiring patriotism. He wished, at any hazard, to risk an attack upon the enemy in their strong-hold, while he had the French troops at his disposal. But he perceived the consequences, and adopted the principles of my letter; and, during a long correspondence between us, I could never too highly praise the solidity of his judgment and the amenity of his style.”—Mémoires Militaires, Historiques et Politiques de Rochambeau, Tom. i., p. 248.—Sparks.
[1 ]Count de Rochambeau replied, that he and the admiral could go as far as Hartford to a rendezvous, and if necessary even to Danbury. He requested General Washington to decide upon the time and place, and desired that the meeting might be held without delay.
[1 ]“You are appointed to the command of the Light Infantry, and four brigades from your own wing, to be employed upon a forage down to Bergen, and from thence up to the English neighborhood. You will make the necessary disposition for your own security and the wagons employed on the occasion. Such are the necessities of the army, and such the situation of the Inhabitants, being all within the power of the Enemy, that you will make the forage as extensive as possible in the articles of hay and grain, as well as in cattle, hogs, and sheep, fit for slaughter; and horses fit for the use of the army. All the articles taken are to be receipted for by the respective departments to which they belong; and the whole sent up to the army, and delivered over to the Officers in the several departments to be appointed to receive and receipt for the same, except such articles of provisions and forage, as may be necessary for the subsistence of the Party under your command.
“As soon as you have completed the forage, you will draw off the Troops and join the army. Should the Enemy attempt to interrupt you in the business, you must govern yourself according to circumstances, leaving you at liberty either to attack or retire, as you may think prudent, from the force they appear in. Particular care is to be taken, that the men don’t straggle, and that no unnecessary distress or opposition is brought upon the Inhabitants.”—Washington to Major-General Greene, 24 August, 1780.
“I am this moment favored with your Letter of this day. I need scarcely inform you of the extreme pain and anxiety, which the licentiousness of some of the soldiery has given me. Something must and shall be done, if possible, to put an effectual check to it. I entirely approve of the prompt Punishment, which you propose to have inflicted on the culprits in question. You will, therefore, be pleased to order one of the soldiers detected in Plundering, and also the Deserters you mention, to be immediately executed.”—Washington to Major-General Greene, 26 August, 1780.
[1 ]An opinion prevailed with some persons, that the French Government did not contribute so largely to the aid of the United States, as the conditions of the alliance and the importance of the common cause required. Among these was Mr. Izard, who had recently returned from France, and who complained that Dr. Franklin neglected to make proper representations to the French Ministry. These things came to the ears of M. de la Luzerne, who said, in reporting them to Count de Vergennes, that, according to the views of Mr. Izard and others of his way of thinking, the American Minister ought instantly to alarm the French court with vivid pictures of the critical situation of the United States, and redouble his applications and requisitions; that France should be informed, that, without a subsidy of twenty millions of livres annually, and the aid of twenty vessels of war, the United States would be in danger of falling into the hands of England; and even if these should not all be obtained, it was necessary to make France fear, that the people of America, discouraged with the burdens and length of the war, would finally be driven to make a separate arrangement with England.
To this statement Count de Vergennes replied, that nothing could be more pernicious than an attempt to alarm the French Ministry by false and exaggerated accounts; that, as they were well acquainted with the state of affairs, this proceeding would destroy confidence in any future representations, and put the reports of the American Minister in contradiction with those of M. de la Luzerne, who was on the spot; that it would excite suspicions and distrust, instead of the frankness and good faith which had hitherto prevailed; and that it would be returning deception and imposture for the generous conduct and benefits of the King, the only ally of the United States in their greatest distress.—MS. Letter from Count de Vergennes to M. de la Luzerne, August 18th.
[1 ]The frigate Alliance arrived in Boston from L’Orient, on the 16th of August, and brought the intelligence, that the French squadron and troops, which were to constitute the second division of Count de Rochambeau’s army, were blockaded in the harbor of Brest by an English fleet of thirty-two sail. The Alliance had on board two thousand stands of arms, several cannon, and a quantity of powder for the United States.
[1 ]“It is impossible for any person at a distance to have an idea of my embarrassments, or to conceive how any army can be kept together under such circumstances as ours is—half its time without Provisions, clothing, or pay.
“The flattering prospect which seemed to be opened to our view in the month of May is vanishing like the morning Dew—The States, instead of sending the full number of men required of them by the first of July, and the consignment supplies, have not furnished one half of them yet. And the second division of French troops and their ships not being arrived, nor any certainty when they will, I despair of doing anything in this quarter this campaign—and what may be the consequence if the combined arms of France and Spain are not more prosperous in Europe or the West Indies, I shall leave to others to predict. At best, the troops we have are only fed from hand to mouth,—and for the last four or five days have been without meat.—In short, the limits of a letter would convey very inadequate ideas of our disagreeable situation; and the wretched manner in which our business is being conducted.—I shall not attempt it therefore, but leave it to some future Pen, and a more favorable period for truth to shine.”—Washington to Samuel Washington, 31 August, 1780.
[1 ]It was deemed good policy by General Schuyler and others, that a deputation of Indians should be encouraged to visit the French army and fleet at Newport. Many of the Iroquois Indians had been strongly attached to the French in former times, particularly during the last war, and they still retained a lively remembrance of the amicable intercourse that had then existed. When M. de Vaudreuil surrendered Canada to the British, he gave to the Indians, as tokens of recognisance, a golden crucifix and a watch; and it was supposed, that a renewal of the impressions, which had been in some degree preserved among the tribes by these emblems of friendship, would have the effect to detach them from the influence of the British, and strengthen their union with the Americans and French. For this end their journey to Newport was planned.
General Schuyler, who was at Albany, selected eighteen Indians for this deputation. Thirteen of these were Oneidas and Tuscaroras, and the other five Caghnawagas from the Sault of St. Louis near Montreal. They were accompanied by Mr. Deane, who was thoroughly acquainted with their language. They arrived at Newport on the 29th of August, and were received with a good deal of ceremony and attention by the French commanders. Entertainments and military shows were prepared for them, and they expressed much satisfaction at what they saw and heard. Suitable presents were distributed among them; and to the chiefs were given medals representing the coronation of the French King. When they went away, a written address was delivered to them, or rather a kind of proclamation, signed by Count de Rochambeau, copies of which were to be distributed among the friendly Indians. It was in the following words:
“The King of France, your father, has not forgotten his children. As a token of remembrance I have presented gifts to your deputies in his name. He learned with concern, that many nations, deceived by the English, who are his enemies, had attacked and lifted up the hatchet against his good and faithful allies the United States. He has desired me to tell you, that he is a firm and faithful friend to all the friends of America, and a decided enemy to all its foes. He hopes, that his children, whom he loves sincerely, will take part with their father in this war against the English.”
This paper was written in both the French and English languages, and sealed and signed in due form.—Rochambeau’s MS. Letter, August 31st.—Sparks.
[1 ]The event here alluded to was the total defeat of General Gates’ army on the 16th of August, in the battle of Camden. This intelligence was received with the greater disappointment and surprise, as recent accounts had given very flattering prospects of the state of affairs in that quarter.
“Anxious for the public good, I shall continue my unwearied endeavors to stop the progress of the enemy, reinstate our affairs, recommence an offensive war, and recover all our losses in the southern States. But, if being unfortunate is solely a reason sufficient for removing me from command, I shall most cheerfully submit to the orders of Congress, and resign an office, which few generals would be anxious to possess, and where the utmost skill and fortitude are subject to be baffled by difficulties, which must for a time surround the chief in command here. That your Excellency may meet with no such difficulties, that your road to fame and fortune may be smooth and easy, is the sincere wish of your most obedient servant.”—Gates to Washington, Hillsborough, August 30th.
Again: “Too much honor cannot be paid by Congress to the memory of the Baron de Kalb. He was every thing an excellent officer should be, and in the cause of the United States he has sacrificed his life. If I can yet render good service to the United States, it will be necessary it should be seen, that I have the support of Congress and of your Excellency; otherwise some men may think they please my superiors by blaming me, and thus recommend themselves to favor. But you, Sir, will be too generous to lend an ear to such men, if such there be, and will show your greatness of soul rather by protecting than slighting the unfortunate. If, on the contrary, I am not supported, and countenance is given to every one who will speak disrespectfully of me, it it will be better of Congress to remove me at once from command, where I shall be unable to render them any good service. This, Sir, I submit to your candor and honor, and shall cheerfully await the decision of my superiors. With the warmest wishes for your prosperity, and the sincerest sentiments of esteem and regard, I am, &c.”—September 3d.
A council of general officers was held on the 6th of September, and the Commander-in-chief, after stating to them the condition and prospects of the army, requested them to send to him, in writing, their opinions respecting the plan of operations that ought to be pursued. The result was an almost unanimous voice, that it was not advisable to make any attempt against New York, till the second French division should arrive, or till there should be a naval superiority to coöperate with the movements on land. Several of the officers recommended detachments to the southward, and some of them thought that the southern army should be supported at all events.
[1 ]A promotion of an officer in the Pennsylvania line, which was thought by the other officers to be unjust to their claims had excited a ferment among them, threatening the most alarming consequences to the whole army. General Wayne and General Irvine had used all their efforts to quell the storm, which, by the aid of the Commander-in-chief, had proved successful. It had been reported to General Wayne, that some persons had insidiously represented him as being at the bottom of the affair, and as acting a treacherous part. This was the subject of his letter, to which the above was a reply.
[1 ]This was probably the view of the matter taken by Congress, as no explanation has been found.
[1 ]General Washington wrote to General Heath: “I should have been very glad, had the situation of the works, which Count de Rochambeau is constructing for the defence of the Island, admitted of the immediate dismission of the three months’ Massachusetts militia; but, as it does not, and as the Count seems very desirous of completing them, we cannot but consent to their staying out their term of service, should it be necessary. I make no doubt but the State will do every thing possible to accommodate the French troops, should circumstances require them to take up their winter-quarter in Rhode Island.”—September 8th.
[1 ]A meeting took place at Elizabethtown, according to the tenor of the above letter, between General Lincoln and General Phillips; but the parties could not agree, and nothing was effected, either in regard to the personal exchange of these two officers, or a general exchange proposed in the instructions to Mr. Skinner. There was a misunderstanding as to the object of the interview. General Phillips had got the idea, that he and General Lincoln were to discuss the whole subject of exchanges, and also the appointment of commissaries to reside with the respective armies, and said he went out with powers to that extent; whereas General Lincoln had no other authority than to make an arrangement for his own exchange. “I shall decline giving any opinion upon this fruitless meeting,” said General Phillips in a letter to General Washington, “but I must be allowed to acknowledge my extreme surprise, that it should be conceived by any person necessary for General Lincoln and myself to confer upon the matter of his partial and personal exchange, which depended so entirely and absolutely upon Sir Henry Clinton and your Excellency, and might have been settled by the receipt and return of a letter on either side.”—Elizabethtown, September 23d. The mistake was on the part of Sir Henry Clinton, because, in his letter on the subject of the meeting for an exchange of prisoners, he had said that Mr. Loring, the commissary, would be sent out for the purpose, and had not mentioned General Phillips as being designed to take any other part, than that of concerting his own exchange with General Lincoln. He wrote a letter to Washington dated the 19th, the day on which the meeting took place, stating that he had entrusted General Phillips with full powers respecting the business of exchange. But General Washington was absent when the letter arrived in camp, nor was it received till it was too late to send similar powers to General Lincoln.—Sparks.
[1 ]The Chevalier de Ternay wrote also to Count de Guichen, requesting him to send four ships of the line to the coast of the United States; but he had left the West Indies and sailed for France before the letters arrived. M. de Monteil, his successor, could not decipher them, and of course no reinforcements were forwarded from the fleet.
M. de Ternay was not well satisfied at this time with his situation and prospects. In writing to Count de Vergennes he said: “I think that the squadron of the King, and his army, have not arrived at the most advantageous point for effecting any important operation on the American continent. The inferiority of means seems to require, that we should be at a greater distance from the place where the enemy concentrate their forces. We are actually compelled to remain on a very strict defensive. The English squadron is superior in number and in every other respect. The fate of North America is yet very uncertain, and the revolution is not so far advanced, as it has been believed in Europe.”—MS. Letter, Rhode Island, September 10th.
At Hartford, Lafayette, Knox, and the commanding officers of the corps of Engineers were to accompany Washington, with an escort of twelve or fifteen dragoons.
[1 ]He did not in reality set out till Monday the 18th, having been delayed one or two days longer than he expected.
[1 ]Read in Congress, September 18th.
[1 ]The morning orders on the 17th were issued in the name of General Washington. The following are General Greene’s “after-orders” for the same day: “His Excellency the Commander-in-Chief, going to be absent from the army a few days, the knowledge of which may possibly reach the enemy, and encourage them to make some movement in consequence thereof; the General desires the officers of all ranks to be in perfect readiness to meet them on the shortest notice, and recommends to the out-guards to be very vigilant and attentive, and the patrols active and watchful.”
“I shall be at Peekskill on Sunday evening, on my way to Hartford, to meet the French Admiral and General. You will be pleased to send down a guard of a Captain and 50 at that time, and direct the q’rmaster to endeavor to have a night’s forage for about forty Horses. You will keep this to yourself, as I want to make my journey a secret.”—Washington to Major-General Arnold, 14 September, 1780.
[1 ]Mr. Skinner met the British commissary, but they could not agree upon any plan of exchange within the range of the above instructions. Mr. Loring, the British commissary, said the proposals would be accepted if the privates then prisoners in New York were included. On the 8th of October, General Washington wrote to Sir Henry Clinton: “This is perfectly agreeable to me, and I have accordingly directed our commissary to take the most effectual and immediate measures to carry into execution the exchange as well of those privates as of the officers.”
[1 ]According to his previous arrangements Washington left the camp on the 18th of September, and the same evening crossed the Hudson at King’s Ferry. Arnold went down the river, and met him there, but returned the next morning to Robinson’s House. Washington pursued his journey to Hartford, had an interview with the French commanders as proposed, and reached West Point in the morning of the 25th, on his way back to camp. Meantime André had been captured, and Arnold had deserted to the enemy.
[1 ]“From some intelligence I have received, I think it necessary, that the Regiment at present under your command should march without a moment’s delay. You will therefore, I request, on receipt of this, put it in motion, and with one half you will occupy the north and middle redoubt on the Heights above this place, as soon as possible. The other half of the Regiment will proceed to the landing-place above Mandeville’s, near the old Connecticut encampment, and will cross the river, immediately after their arrival to West Point.”—Washington to Lieutenant-Colonel Ebenezer Gray, 7 o’clock p.m., 25 September, 1780.
“I wish to see you here immediately, and request that you will come without the least delay.”—Washington to Col. James Livingston, 25 September, 1780.
He also wrote to the officer commanding a wood-cutting party at Staatsburg: “I request that you will, on receipt of this, march with the wood-cutting detachment under your command to Fishkill, where you will remain till further orders.” To Major Low, of the Massachusetts levies, who was stationed at Fishkill, he wrote: “You will be pleased to march early to-morrow morning with all the militia under your command, and proceed to the landing opposite to West Point. You will send an officer to this place, by whom you will receive further orders. Colonel Gouvion, the bearer of this, will apply to you for an officer and a small party of men. These you will furnish.” Colonel Gouvion was sent to arrest Joshua H. Smith, who was then at Fishkill, and the guard was destined for that object, and to conduct him to West Point. To General Greene, then at Tappan, he wrote:
“I request, that you will put the division on the left in motion as soon as possible, with orders to proceed to King’s Ferry, when, or before they arrive there, they will be met with further orders. The division will come on light, leaving their heavy baggage to follow. You will also hold all the troops in readiness to move on the shortest notice. Transactions of a most interesting nature, and such as will astonish you, have been just discovered.”
As soon as the escape of Arnold was ascertained, Hamilton was despatched from Robinson’s House to Verplanck’s Point, with orders to intercept and seize Arnold, should he not already have passed below King’s Ferry. In writing to Washington, after his arrival at Verplanck’s Point, Hamilton said;
“You will see by the enclosed, that we are too late. Arnold went by water to the Vulture. I shall write to General Greene, advising him, without making a bustle, to be in readiness to march, and even to detach a brigade this way; for, though I do not believe the project will go on, it is possible Arnold has made such dispositions with the garrison, as may tempt the enemy in its present weakness to make the stroke this night, and it seems prudent to be providing against it. I shall endeavor to find Meigs, and request him to march to the garrison; and shall make some arrangements here. I hope your Excellency will approve these steps, as there may be no time to be lost.”—MS. Letter, September 25th.
[1 ]A letter written by Major André in his own name to General Washington, on the 24th of September, had been received before the date of the above letter.
[1 ]Major André and Joshua H. Smith were brought to Robinson’s House on the morning of the 26th of September, the former from Colonel Sheldon’s quarters in Lower Salem, and the latter from Fishkill. They were sent over separately to West Point the evening of the some day.
[2 ]Lieutenant-Colonel Jameson had notified Arnold, as his superior officer, of the capture of André.
[1 ]Colonel Franks and Colonel Varick were General Arnold’s aids-de-camp. Colonel Varick asked that a court of inquiry be held on his conduct before as well as after he became an aid to Arnold. Washington replied on the 21st of October:
“I would willingly comply with your request for an inquiry, on the extensive ground you place it, did I think it could be done with propriety. But, in order for it to be a real and not a nominal inquiry, the Court would be obliged to go into an investigation of particular facts, which is impossible, as there are no allegations and no witnesses; so that they would only proceed upon such materials as you would furnish them. There seems to me to be too much generality in the inquiry, and that it is besides unnecessary, as your character is, so far as I am informed, unimpeached. In my opinion the proper line is to confine the inquiry to your conduct during your connexion with Arnold; and, as your former character will be a presumptive evidence of your present innocence, on the contrary the Court, I presume, will admit your testimonials respecting it, by the way, and in this light.”
Accordingly the court, appointed by Heath, confined its inquiry to the period during which Arnold was in command at West Point. In the result it was established, that no just suspicions whatever could rest against the character of Colonel Varick. The court decided, that “his conduct was not only unimpeachable, but such as entitled him to a degree of merit, that did him great honor as an officer, and particularly distinguished him as a sincere friend to his country.” A decision of the same import was made in regard to Colonel Franks.
[1 ]“On my arrival here a very disagreeable scene unfolded itself. By lucky accident, a conspiracy of the most dangerous nature, the object of which was to sacrifice this post, has been detected. General Arnold, who has sullied his former glory by the blackest treason, has escaped to the enemy. This is an event that occasions me equal regret and mortification; but traitors are the growth of every country, and in a revolution of the present nature, it is more to be wondered at, that the catalogue is so small, than that there have been found a few. The situation of the army at this time will make General Heath’s presence with us useful. I have written to him for this purpose. I hope his removal will be attended with no inconvenience to your Excellency.”—Washington to Rochambeau, 26 September, 1780.
[1 ]The papers contained in André’s boots, copies of which were sent to Congress.
[1 ]Read in Congress September 30th. Referred to Lovell, Van Dyke, and Duane.
“You will immediately make a distribution of the troops under your command to the several posts, that the whole may be in a state of defence at the shortest notice. You will also have each work supplied with ten days’ provision, wood, water, and stores, and keep up constantly that supply; and you will take every other precaution for the security of the post. The enemy will have acquired from General Arnold a perfect knowledge of the defences, and will be able to take their measures with the utmost precision. This makes it essential, our vigilance and care should be redoubled for its preservation. You will do every thing in your power to gain information of the enemy’s designs, and give me intelligence, as early as possible, of any movement against you. A party of militia, who have been employed cutting wood, and another as guards to the stores at Fishkill, that have been called in, are to return to their destinations. Colonel Gouvion will remain a few days at this post, to assist in the necessary arrangements.”—Washington to the Officer Commanding at West Point, 27 September, 1780. Until the arrival of General St. Clair, General McDougall was placed in command.
[1 ]“. . . Your Excellency will have heard probably before this reaches you, of the perfidy of Major General Arnold. On the 25th of Septr. he went to the Enemy. He had entered very deeply into a combination with them, as far as we can judge, for putting them in possession of the important post of West Point, where he commanded & the command of which he had solicited. For this purpose he had contrived an interview with Major André, Adjutant General to their Army, on the night of the 21st and delivered to him
“A copy of a State of Matters I had laid before a Council of Genl. Officers the 6 of Septr.
“An Estimate of the force at West Point & its Dependencies—of men to man the Works at West Point—Remarks on those works. A Return of Ordnance at West Point & its dependencies. Artillery Orders for the Disposition of the Corps in case of an alarm at West Point. A Permit to Major André, under the Assumed name of John Anderson to pass our Guards. This officer, with all these papers in Arnold’s hand writing, was taken by a most extraordinary & providential intervention of circumstances, under the Assumed Name of John Anderson & in a disguised habit, about Fifteen Miles from the Enemy’s outpost at Kingsbridge, by a small Militia patrole who acted with great virtue upon the occasion, as he was returning to New York; having been all the night of the 21st & next day in the vicinity of our posts at Stony & Verplanks points, and passed by them the night preceeding the capture. Arnold got information of the event on the morning of the 25 before it was known to any of the officers under his Command or others in Authority & pushed down the River in a barge to the Vulture sloop of war, which lay a few miles below Stony Point. Major André was tried by a Board of General Officers, and on his free & voluntary confession & Letters was sentenced to suffer death, agreeable to the practice & usage of Nations in like cases, which he has accordingly suffered. He acted with great candor after he avowed himself until he was executed. Your Excellency will probably see the whole of the proceedings in his case published. We have no doubt now, whatever may be the future objects & measures of the Enemy, that the primary & principal design of the embarkation they were making, was to take West Point, which through the preconcerted arrangements between them & Mr. Arnold, in all human probability, would have inevitably fallen into their hands most likely in the course of a few days after the discovery. The Enemy have not laid aside, from the accounts I continue to receive, their preparations for an expedition—and must now mean to make a push in some other more remote quarter. Hence your Excellency will perceive that they leave nothing unassayed to carry their point, but I trust there is more than abundant virtue, as well as means in our hands, if these are properly directed, to withstand & baffle easily all their most vigorous & artful efforts.”—Washington to Governor Jefferson, 10 October, 1780.
[1 ]The committee of coöperation, who had been several months with the army, and recently returned to Congress, had become unpopular with some of the members, in consequence of their strenuous endeavors to increase and render more permanent the military force. They were charged with being “too strongly tinctured with the army principles,” which they had imbibed while absent in camp.
[1 ]In reply to this letter, after speaking of the plan proposed in Congress for a new arrangement of the army, Mr. Duane said: “I am persuaded that your Excellency’s representations on this and every other subject will have as much influence as you can wish, and that, on this particular occasion, nothing but a clear conviction of impracticability will induce Congress to overrule your opinion. A false estimate of the power and perseverance of our enemies was friendly to the present revolution, and inspired that confidence of success in all ranks of people, which was necessary to unite them in so arduous a cause. You cannot forget the opinions, which were current on this floor during the first and second Congresses, and how firmly they established this error. We seem to part with it with reluctance. It still hangs heavily upon us, and has produced the indecision, the expedients, and the debility, of which you complain. I hope misfortunes and distresses will at length rouse us to just sentiments and vigorous exertions; and, with your Excellency, I pray God, that the fatal delusion, which has marked our conduct, may end here.”—MS. Letter, October 10th.
[1 ]General Cadwalader had written: “I have now reason to wish I had accepted the command given me by Congress; but at that time I conceived that the war was near a conclusion. Many others were of the same opinion, and we flattered ourselves with expectations of a speedy peace. In this, however, I remember you widely differed in opinion. Whatever may be the event, be assured there is no person in America more firmly attached to you as commander, and to the general cause; and, should our affairs take an unfortunate turn, I shall to the last share with you the misfortunes of the times.”—September 20th.
[1 ]“A new disposition of the army going to be made,” General Greene had written, “and an officer appointed to the command of West Point and the district on the east side of the North River, I take the liberty just to intimate my inclination for the appointment. Your Excellency will judge of the propriety, and determine as the honor of the army and the good of the service may require. I hope there is nothing indelicate or improper in the application. I am prompted to the measure from the feelings incident to the human heart, as well as encouraged with the hope that it will meet with your approbation, from the flattering manner in which you have been pleased to speak of my conduct upon different occasions.
“I shall make use of no arguments, being persuaded my pretensions and inclinations will have their full operation, and that nothing short of the public good and military propriety will contravene my wishes. My first object is the freedom and happiness of my country. With these your Excellency’s reputation and glory are inseparably connected; and, as it has been my constant wish, so it shall be my future endeavor, to promote the establishment of both.”—October 5th.
[1 ]“Your Excellency will have heard of the execution of the British adjutantgeneral. The circumstances he was taken in justified it, and policy required a sacrifice; but as he was more unfortunate than criminal in the affair, and, as there was much in his character to interest, while we yielded to the necessity of rigor, we could not but lament it.”—Washington to Rochambeau, 10 October, 1780.
[1 ]Congress rewarded Paulding, Williams, and Van Wart by voting an annual pension of two hundred dollars to each for life; and also ordering that the Board of War should procure for each a silver medal, on one side of which should be a shield with the inscription Fidelity, and on the other the motto, Vincit Amor Patriæ. To a letter from the President of Congress, accompanying the resolutions for these objects, General Washington replied: “The recompense is ample; it is an evidence of the generosity of Congress, a flattering tribute to the virtue of those citizens, and must prove a powerful incitement to others to imitate their example.” The medals were afterwards given to the three individuals by Washington himself at head-quarters.—Sparks.
[1 ]Read in Congress October 12th. Referred to Sullivan, Bland, and Mathews.
[1 ]The French admiral, M. de Ternay, continued to entertain the same unfavorable sentiments, respecting the prospect of affairs in America, which he conceived on his first arrival in the country. In writing to Count de Vergennes he said: “In my letter of the 10th of September” (see above, p. 436), “you will have seen what were my views relative to the actual position of the squadron and the army. I am still of the same opinion, and have charged M. de la Pérouse to explain to you my reasons. I persist in the belief, that the revolution is not so far advanced, as is generally imagined in Europe. The conspiracy lately formed by an American general to deliver into the hands of the English the post, which was confided to him, is an evidence that there are traitors. A single individual of this description might decide the fortunes of a campaign, and the fate of the country. When the word liberty was pronounced in North America, all the world took up arms, but the leaders of the revolution have never calculated the consequences. If France does not decide the question, all is lost. What an occasion have we missed during the present year! Shall we be more fortunate the next? A general, who is absolute master of his operations, can alone succeed. If there is an inferiority, the sea and land forces should act separately. An unforeseen reunion of the enemy ought to be the basis of every project.”—MS. Letter, October 18th.
In reply to this letter, Count de Vergennes said: “You are on the spot, and have a better opportunity of judging of the prevalent dispositions in America, than we can have here; but I feel no difficulty in subscribing to your opinion respecting the progress of the revolution, and I am not less afflicted than yourself, that a republic, which is yet hardly in its cradle, should witness a crime so atrocious as that of Arnold. It is too enormous to excite a fear, that it will find many imitators. The example, therefore, is less to be apprehended, than the motives which gave rise to his treason. These may find action in a country, where jealousy is in some sort the essence of the government. I have always thought, and have not yet changed my opinion, that the great efforts on our part by land would have the double inconvenience of creating much internal disquietude, without obtaining a decisive external advantage, and that the most effective succours ought to consist in forces by sea. I am alone in this opinion, but I shall retain it till I can be convinced of its unsoundness or error.”—MS. Letter, December 2d.
[1 ]Colonel Wood commanded at Charlotteville, and had the charge of the convention troops at that place.
[1 ]See the above resolutions in the Journals of Congress, October 3d. They contain the plan of a new arrangement of the army. By a separate resolve they were referred to the Commander-in-chief for his opinion.
[1 ]Read in Congress October 16th. Referred to the Committee on his letter of 20 August last, together with the plan of a new arrangement.
Congress adopted the amendments proposed by the Commander-in-chief. Baron Steuben, who was then in Philadelphia, on his way to the southward, wrote as follows:
“It is with the greatest satisfaction I acquaint you, that the plan of arrangement for the army, which your Excellency sent to Congress, has been agreed to without any alteration. The granting half-pay for life to the reduced officers has met with some opposition; yet the proposition has not only passed, but it was resolved immediately after to extend these advantages to all the officers in the service.”—MS. Letter, October 23d. See also Journals of Congress, October 21st.
[2 ]Colonel Laurens had been taken prisoner at the capitulation of Charleston, and was now on parole at Philadelphia. He had written to General Washington, congratulating him on the providential detection of Arnold’s treason.
[1 ]Alluding to a passage in Colonel Laurens’ letter, in which he said: “André has, I suppose, paid the forfeit which public justice demanded. Example will derive new force from his conspicuous character. Arnold must undergo a punishment comparatively more severe in the permanent, increasing torment of a mental hell.”—October 4th.
[1 ]Mr. Mathews, a delegate in Congress from South Carolina, wrote as follows to General Washington: “I am authorized by the delegates of the three southern States to communicate to your Excellency their wish, that Major-General Greene may be the officer appointed to the command of the southern department, if it would not be incompatible with the rules of the army.”—October 6th.
“Our southern affairs wear a most disagreeable aspect, and prove more and more the necessity of renouncing that feeble system, which has brought this country to so perplexing a crisis. If there were any hope of our counsels assuming that complexion, which the exigency demands, the progress of the enemy at this period would seem to be an advantage rather than an evil; for they have not a stamina of force sufficient for such extensive conquests, and by spreading themselves out, as they are now doing, they will render themselves vulnerable every where. But I see no chance of the change which we stand in need of, and therefore I fear they will realize their anticipations. You have your wish in the officer appointed to the southern command. I think I am giving you a general, but what can a general do, without men, without arms, without clothing, without stores, without provisions? Lee’s corps will also go to the southward. I believe it will be found very useful. The corps itself is an excellent one, and the officer at the head of it has great resources of genius.”—Washington to John Mathews, 23 October, 1780.
[1 ]“I am aware, that the command you are entering upon will be attended with peculiar difficulties and embarrassments; but the confidence I have in your abilities, which determined me to choose you for it, assures me, you will do every thing the means in your power will permit to surmount them and stop the progress of the evils, which have befallen and still menace the Southern States. You may depend upon all the support I can give you, from the double motives of regard to you personally, and to the public good.
“I wish circumstances could be made to correspond with your wishes to spend a little time at home previous to your setting out; but your presence with your command, as soon as possible, is indispensable. The embarkation at New York sailed the 16th, in all probability, destined to co-operate with Cornwallis, who, by the last advices, was advanced as far as Charlotte. I hope to see you without delay, and that your health will be no obstacle to your commencing your journey.”—Washington to Major-General Greene, 18 October, 1780.
[1 ]Read in Congress, 19th October.
[2 ]General Washington had written, requesting President Reed to cause to be sent forward as expeditiously as possible a supply of flour to the army.
[1 ]Robert R. Livingston. See above p. 326.
[1 ]“Your favor of the 15th is just come to hand. I cannot suffer myself to delay a moment in pronouncing, if Arnold, by the words (in his letter to his wife), ‘I am treated with the greatest politeness by General Washington and the officers of the army, who bitterly execrate Mr. Reed and the Council for their villanous attempt to injure me,’ meant to comprehend me in the latter part of the expression, that he asserted an absolute falsehood. It was at no time my inclination, much less my intention, to become a party in his cause; and I certainly could not be so lost to my own character, as to become a partisan at the moment I was called upon officially to bring him to tryal. I am not less mistaken, if he has not extended the former part of the paragraph a little too far. True it is, he self-invited some civilities I never meant to shew him, (or any officer in arrest), and he received rebuke before I could convince him of the impropriety of his entering upon a justification of his conduct in my presence, and for bestowing such illiberal abuse as he seemed disposed to do upon those whom he denominated his persecutors. Although you have done me the justice to disbelieve Arnold’s assertion to his wife, a regard to my own feelings and character claims a declaration of the falsehood of it, from, dear Sir, your most obedient and affectionate, &c.”—Washington to President Reed, 20 November, 1780.