Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO MAJOR-GENERAL GATES. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. VIII (1779-1780)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
TO MAJOR-GENERAL GATES. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. VIII (1779-1780) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. VIII (1779-1780).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL GATES.
Head-Quarters, nearPassaic Falls,
I have received your several favors of the 30th of August, 3d and 15th of Septemr. The first reached me only two days before I set out for Hartford, to meet Count de Rochambeau and the Chevalier de Ternay. The two last came to hand while I was absent. The first account, which I received of the unfortunate affair near Camden, was by a Copy of your letter of the 20th Augt. from Hillsborough to the President of Congress. The shock was the greater, as the operations, a few days preceding the Action, were much in our favor. The behavior of the Continental troops does them infinite honor. The accounts, which the enemy give of the action, show that their victory was dearly bought. Under present circumstances, the System, which you are pursuing, seems extremely proper. It would answer no good purpose to take a position near the Enemy, while you are so far inferior in force. If they can be kept in check by the light, irregular troops under Colo. Sumpter and other active officers, they will gain nothing by the time, which must be necessarily spent by you in collecting and arranging the new Army, forming Magazines, and replacing the Stores, which were lost in the Action.
Further detachments from this Army will very much depend upon the measures, which the enemy mean ultimately to pursue. While they maintain a superiority by sea, they have an infinite advantage over us; as they can send off a detachment from their Army, make a stroke, and return again, while a part of ours may be marching to meet them at the point of destination. Indeed, our reduction of numbers will be so great, by the expiration of the times of the levies, the last of December, that the enemy may then make very considerable detachments, and yet leave a force sufficient to make us apprehensive for the safety of the Highland posts, and for the security of the communication thro’ Jersey, on which we in a great measure depend for supplies.
It was owing to the fatal policy of temporary enlistments, that the enemy were enabled to gain the footing, which they hold in the Southern States; and it is much to be feared, that the same cause will be attended with an increase of disagreeable effects. They are well acquainted with the period of our dissolution, and have scarcely ever failed of taking advantage of them; and we can hardly suppose, they will be more negligent this winter, than the preceding ones.
Preparations have been some time making for an embarkation from New York. The destination is publicly said to be to the southward, and I think probability is in favor of that report. Should a further extension of their Conquests in that quarter be their object, I am in hopes, that the force, collecting by the exertions of North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland, will keep them confined to the limits of South Carolina, at least till a better general disposition of our Affairs can be made, or untill we may receive more effectual assistance from our Allies; a measure which they have most seriously in view, and of which an unlucky coincidence of circumstances has hitherto deprived us.
The French Fleet has been blocked up in the harbor of Newport almost ever since its arrival there, by a superior British squadron; which superiority has been lately increased by the arrival of Admiral Rodney from the West Indies with ten ships. Count de Guichen touched nowhere upon this Coast, tho’, by a variety of accounts, he was up as high as the latitude of 26, and by some higher. The report of his having taken 100 sail of British merchantmen is, I imagine, premature; as we have intelligence of a late date from the Havana, and no such circumstance is mentioned. It will be of very great importance, that I should be regularly informed of every movement of the Enemy, as I shall thereby be better enabled to form an opinion upon any appearances in this quarter. I am, Sir, &c.1
[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.