Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1781. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. IX (1780-1782)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
1781. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. IX (1780-1782) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. IX (1780-1782).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
New Windsor, 2 January, 1781.
I have been honored with your Excellency’s favor of the 21st ulto., in which Congress have been pleased to refer the propriety of granting Genl. Stark’s request to them, to me. His health is undoubtedly so much impaired, that he has been able to do but very little duty the preceding Campaign, and retirement for a time seems therefore necessary. Congress will either direct his return to the Army at a certain period, or they will leave it at large, as they may judge proper. I beg leave to call the attention of Congress to my letter, of the 28th Novemr. last from Morris Town in which I mentioned Colo. Scammell’s desire to quit the Office of Adjutant-General. I had not at that time his letter on the subject with me. I now enclose a Copy of it, in which his reasons for wishing to return to the line are fully set forth. I find him still determined in his resolution, and I shall therefore, I hope, be excused for pressing Congress to appoint a successor.
I have at length, thro’ a Channel on which I can depend, gained an account, as accurate as circumstances will admit, of the embarkation which sailed from New York on the 20th ulto. It consisted of about sixteen hundred Men, and was chiefly composed of detachments from the British, German, and provincial Corps. The Queen’s Rangers are said to be the only intire Corps. Arnold commands, which, my informant says, gives disgust to many of the other officers. The destination was not reduced to a certainty, but from the preparations, and the Refugees who embarked in the fleet, it was generally thought to be to the southward. I have the honor to be, &c.1
P. S. Capt. Mitchell of the Jersey line has marched with a Company to relieve Colo. Butler at Wyoming.1
TO BRIGADIER-GENERAL WAYNE.
New Windsor, 3 January, 1781.
My Dear Sir,
I, to-day, at Noon recd. yours of the 2d in the morning by Majr. Fishbourn who has given me a full account of the unhappy and alarming defection of the Pennsylvania line. The officers have given convincing proofs, that every thing possible was done by them to check the mutiny upon its first appearance, and it is to be regretted, that some of them have fallen sacrifices to their zeal. I very much approve of the determination of yourself, Colo. Richard Butler, and Colo. Walter Stewart, to keep with the troops, if they will admit of it, as, after the first transports of passion, there may be some favorable intervals, which may be improved. I do not know where this may find you or in what situation. I can therefore only advise what seems to me most proper at this distance, and upon a consideration of all circumstances.
Opposition, as it did not succeed in the first instance, cannot be effectual while the men remain together, but will keep alive resentment, and may tempt them to turn about and go in a body to the Enemy, who, by their emissaries, will use every argument and mean in their power to persuade them that it is their only asylum; which, if they find their passage stopped at the Delaware, and hear that the Jersey militia are collecting in their rear, they may think but too probable. I would therefore recommend it to you to cross the Delaware with them, draw from them what they conceive to be their principal grievances, and promise faithfully to represent to Congress and to the State the substance of them, and to endeavor to obtain a redress. If they could be stopped at Bristol or G. T. the better. I look upon it, that if you can bring them to a negotiation, matters may be afterwards accommodated; but that an attempt to reduce them by force will either drive them to the Enemy, or dissipate them in such a manner, that they will never be recovered.1 Major Fishbourn informs me, that Genl. Potter and Colo. Johnston had gone forward to apprize Congress of this unfortunate event, and to advise them to go out of the way to avoid the first burst of the Storm. It was exceedingly proper to give Congress and the State notice of the affair, that they might be prepared; but the removal of Congress, waving the indignity, might have a very unhappy influence. The Mutineers, finding the Body before whom they were determined to lay their grievances fled, might take a new turn and wreak their vengeance upon the persons and property of the Citizens; and, in a town of the size of Philada., there are numbers who would join them in such a business. I would therefore wish you, if you have time, to recall that advice, and rather recommend it to them to wait and hear what propositions the Soldiers have to make.
Immediately upon the receipt of your letter, I took measures to inform myself of the temper of the troops in this quarter, and have sent into the Country for a small Escort of Horse to come to me; and if nothing alarming appears here, and I hear nothing farther from you, I shall to-morrow morning set out towards Philadelphia, by the Route of Chester, Warwick, Colonel Seward’s, Davenport’s Mill, Morristown, Somerset, Princeton, Trenton, on which route you will direct any despatches for me. As I shall be exceedingly anxious to hear what turn matters have taken, or in what situation they remain, you will be pleased to let me hear from you. I am, &c.1
P. S. January 4th, seven o’clock,a. m.—Upon second thoughts I am in doubt whether I shall come down, because the Mutineers must have returned to their duty, or the business be in the hands of Congress, before I could reach you, and because I am advised by such of the General Officers, as I have seen, not to leave this post in the present situation of things, temper of the troops, and distress of the Garrison for want of Flour, Cloathing, and in short every thing.
TO THE NEW ENGLAND STATES.
It is with extreme anxiety and pain of mind, I find myself constrained to inform you, that the event I have long apprehended would be the consequence of the complicated distresses of the Army, has at length taken place.—On the night of the 1st instant, a mutiny was excited by the non-commissioned officers and privates of the Pennsylvania line, which soon became so universal as to defy all opposition. In attempting to quell this tumult in the first instance, some officers were killed, others wounded, and the lives of several common soldiers lost. Deaf to the arguments, entreaties, and utmost efforts of all their officers, to stop them, the men moved off from Morristown, the place of their cantonment, with their arms, and six pieces of Artillery: and from accounts just received by General Wayne’s Aid de Camp, they were still in a body, on their march to Philadelphia, to demand a redress of their grievances. At what point this defection will stop, or how extensive it may prove, God only knows; at present the troops at the important posts in this vicinity remain quiet, not being acquainted with this unhappy and alarming affair. How long they will continue so, cannot be ascertained, as they labor under some of the pressing hardships with the troops who have revolted.
The aggravated calamities and distresses that have resulted from the total want of pay, for nearly twelve months, the want of cloathing at a severe season, and not unfrequently the want of provisions, are beyond description. The circumstances will now point out much more forcibly what ought to be done, than any thing that can possibly be said by me, on the subject.
It is not within the sphere of my duty to make requisitions without the authority of Congress from individual states; but at such a crisis as this, and circumstanced as we are, my own heart will acquit me, and Congress and the States (eastward of this) whom, for the sake of despatch, I address, I am persuaded will excuse me when once for all I give it decidedly as my opinion, that it is vain to think an army can be kept together much longer, under such a variety of sufferings as ours has experienced; and that unless some immediate and spirited measures are adopted to furnish at least three months pay to the troops, in money which will be of some value to them—and at the same time ways and means are devised to clothe and feed them better (more regularly I mean), than they have been—the worst that can befall us may be expected.
I have transmitted Congress a copy of this letter, and have in the most pressing terms requested them to adopt the measure which I have above recommended, or something similar to it, and as I will not doubt of their compliance, I have thought it proper to give you this previous notice, that you may be prepared to answer the requisition.
As I have used every endeavor in my power to avert the evil that has come upon us, so will I continue to exert every mean I am possessed of, to prevent an extension of the mischief, but I can neither foretell or be answerable for the issue.
That you may have every information that an officer of rank and abilities can give, of the true situation of our affairs, and the condition and temper of the troops, I have prevailed upon Brigadier General Knox to be the bearer of this letter; to him I beg leave to refer you, for many matters, which would be too tedious for a letter.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Congress must have been long ere this, informed by General Wayne of the Mutiny of the Pennsylvania Troops on the 1st instant, and I have no doubt but he has kept them regularly advised of what happened afterwards. I have heard nothing particular from those troops since they reached the neighborhood of Somerset Court House, at which place they shewed some signs of a better disposition than at first. The only favorable circumstance is, their not having attempted to make a push for the Enemy. I should have immediately, upon the receipt of this alarming intelligence, proceeded to Morristown, and from thence to wherever the troops might be, had matters been in such a situation here, as to have justified my leaving these important posts, without being well assured of the temper and affections of the Garrison, who labor under nearly the same distresses, and have in some degree the same cause of complaint as the Pennsylvanians, and, more especially as the Officers had, a little time ago, acquainted me, that they had discovered some symptoms of a similar intention. Luckily, however, no such disposition has yet appeared. But as the distresses of the Troops for Flour and for some species of Cloathing are great, and they may only want some plausible pretext for breaking out, I am strongly advised by the General Officers present, not to leave this place, particularly as the River is intirely free of Ice, and therefore favorable for the enemy to take advantage of such an event should it unfortunately happen.
General Wayne, Colo. R. Butler and Colo. Stewart will keep with the Line, and as they are extremely popular officers, they will I think have every possible effect upon the Men. I wrote to General Wayne upon the subject of what appeared to me the proper mode of conducting himself and desired him to forward a copy of my letter to Congress.
I every moment expect further intelligence from below, and should matters seem indispensably to require my presence I will set out. His Excelly. Govr. Clinton is here, and will remain in the neighborhood, ready to call in his Militia should there be any defection in the Continental Troops.
I do myself the honor to enclose the Copy of a letter which I have written to the four Eastern States, preparatory to the requisition, which I most earnestly intreat Congress may make upon them and the others for an advance of pay and supplies, if the public funds are not in condition to furnish what is necessary for the purpose. Matters are now come to a Crisis, and I should be wanting in duty to my Country, and unworthy of that confidence which Congress have been pleased in so many instances to repose in me were I to hesitate in giving it as my opinion that altho’ the other troops, who are more generally composed of Natives, and may therefore have attachments of a stronger nature, may bear their distresses somewhat longer than the Pennsylvanians, yet, that it will be dangerous to put their patience further to the test. They may, for what I know, be only waiting to see the effects of the Pennsylvania insurrection; and it will be therefore far better to meet them with a part of their just dues, than to put them to the necessity of demanding them in a manner disreputable and prejudicial to the service, and the Cause, and totally subversive of all military discipline. * * *1
TO BRIGADIER-GENERAL WAYNE.
New Windsor, 8 January, 1781.
I have received your favor of the 4th with the enclosures by the Express the Evening before last. I had been deliberating in my own mind, whether to continue at this place or set out for Prince Town; but am advised by the Governor of this State, and the General Officers with me, (and which seems to be consonant to your opinion also,) to remain here, as the ultimate measures might probably be taken before I could arrive; and as the personal influence of yourself and the Gentlemen with you, together with that of the Governor and Council of the State, might effect whatever could be done in that way.
I am now happy to inform you, the Troops at the several Posts in this vicinity continue still quiet, without giving indications of outrage or defection. At this distance, and under your present circumstances, it is impossible to recommend (if advice could reach you in time) any particular line of conduct, but only in general to observe, that such measures founded in justice, and a proper degree of generosity, as will have a tendency to conciliate or divide the men, appear most likely to succeed. Certain it is, that, should they finally be driven to the Enemy, they will be a considerable augmentation of strength against us; or, should they be dispersed, their loss to the service will be severely felt. Both these evils are therefore to be avoided, if there is any proper ground on which it can be done. The circumstances of the moment will point out the measures necessary to be pursued, taking into view at the same time the consequences which will be involved, with respect to other Troops, who are nearly in the same situation.
I have such entire confidence in the zeal, ability, and influence of the Gentlemen concerned in the negotiation; let the issue be what it may, I shall have the consolation of believing, that whatever could be done on the occasion has been faithfully and strenuously attempted. I am, dear Sir, &c.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL GREENE.
Head Quarters,New Windsor,
My Dear Sir,
I have been duly favored with your letters of the 7th and 8th of Decr., together with the returns of the army under your command.
It is impossible for any one to sympathize more feelingly with you, in the sufferings and distresses of the troops, than I do; and nothing could aggravate my unhappiness so much as the want of ability to remedy or even alleviate the calamities, which they suffer, and in which we participate but too largely. None of the clothing so long expected from France has yet arrived. We are compelled therefore to have recourse to the States, and the supplies are very inadequate to our wants. Should the French clothing be brought in, you may depend upon having a full proportion of it. You will be persuaded in the mean time, that I am perfectly sensible of the innumerable embarrassments and hardships you have to struggle with, in such an exhausted country, and that I should be happy to be able to afford the wished relief. The brilliant action of General Sumpter, and the stratagem of Colonel Washington, deserve great commendation. It gives me inexpressible pleasure to find, that such a spirit of enterprise and intrepidity still prevails.
I was much surprised, that any dispute about rank was like to arise between Baron Steuben and General Smallwood; nor can I conceive upon what principles the latter can found his claim of seniority. For, if the date of his commission is to be carried back to any given period previous to his appointment, it may supersede not only that of the officer now in question, but many others, and indeed derange and throw into confusion the rank of the whole line of major-generals. But as the services of the Baron may be extremely necessary in Virginia, it may not be amiss for him to continue there, till the principles of Major-General Smallwood on the subject are more clearly ascertained, and a decision is made by Congress, if the dispute cannot be otherwise determined.
The preposterous conduct of those concerned in releasing, instead of exchanging, the prisoners lately taken to the southward, is really astonishing. I had entertained hopes, that a considerable number of our prisoners in Charlestown might have been obtained for them. In this quarter an extensive exchange has taken place. We have few officers and no privates remaining in the hands of the enemy. I advised you on the 2nd inst. of the sailing of a fleet from N. York, with about 1600 troops on board, nothing has been heard respecting it since. * * *
TO MAJOR-GENERAL ST. CLAIR.
Head Quarters,New Windsor,
The receipt of your letter of the 9th, enclosing one from General Wayne, has, if possible, added to my embarrassments. I had heard from General Sullivan and Lord Stirling, that the mutineers had delivered up the British emissaries immediately upon their arrival in Princeton. From this I was in hopes, that they had precluded themselves from all assistance from that quarter, and that the reduction of them by force, should matters come to extremities, would not be difficult. But now their conduct appears to me in this light; they have made known the propositions offered by Sir Henry Clinton only by way of threat, and seem to say, if you do not grant our terms, we can obtain them elsewhere.1
At the meeting with the general and field officers yesterday, it was almost a universal opinion, that their men might be depended on. I therefore gave directions for a detachment of one thousand to be prepared and held in readiness.1 If things are in a train of negotiation, as would seem to be the case from General Wayne’s postscript, to move a force between Trenton and the enemy might create suspicions in the minds of the mutineers, and make them fly to the enemy for safety. I do not think it prudent to write to the committee of Congress, to Governor Reed, or to General Wayne, lest my letter should be stopped. I think, therefore, from a consideration of the subject in every light, that it will be best for you to go down to the Pennsylvania side, opposite Trenton, and send for some of the gentlemen over. There inquire minutely into the situation of affairs, and if there are no hopes of a reasonable compromise, get from them an opinion of what ought ultimately to be done. If force should be determined upon, the governors of Pennsylvania and Jersey should instantly make arrangements for bringing out as many of their militia as can be collected, while the detachment above mentioned is marching from hence, that the intercourse between Trenton and this place may be as expeditious as possible. Desire Colonel Nelson to fix a relay of expresses from the neighborhood of Trenton to Morristown, and let the quartermaster at Morristown continue them from thence to this place.
I am, dear Sir, &c.1
TO LIEUTENANT-COLONEL JOHN LAURENS.2
New Windsor, 15 January, 1781.
In compliance with your request I shall commit to writing the result of our conferences on the present state of American affairs, in which I have given you my ideas with that freedom and explicitness, which the objects of your commission, my entire confidence in you, and the exigency demand. To me it appears evident:
1st. That, considering the diffused population of these States, the consequent difficulty of drawing together its resources, the composition and temper of a part of the inhabitants, the want of a sufficient stock of national wealth as a foundation for revenue, and the almost total extinction of commerce, the efforts we have been compelled to make for carrying on the war have exceeded the natural abilities of this country, and by degrees brought it to a crisis, which renders immediate and efficacious succors from abroad indispensable to its safety.
2dly. That, notwithstanding, from the confusion always attendant on a revolution, from our having had governments to frame and every species of civil and military institutions to create, from that inexperience in affairs necessarily incident to a nation in its commencement, some errors may have been committed in the administration of our finances, to which a part of our embarrassments are to be attributed; yet they are principally to be ascribed to an essential defect of means, to the want of a sufficient stock of wealth, as mentioned in the first article, which, continuing to operate, will make it impossible by any merely interior exertions to extricate ourselves from those embarrassments, restore public credit, and furnish the funds requisite for the support of the war.
3dly. That experience has demonstrated the impracticability long to maintain a paper credit without funds for its redemption. The depreciation of our currency was in the main a necessary effect of the want of those funds; and its restoration is impossible for the same reason, to which the general diffidence that has taken place among the people is an additional and, in the present state of things, an insuperable obstacle.
4thly. That the mode, which for want of money has been substituted for supplying the army, by assessing a proportion of the productions of the earth, has hitherto been found ineffectual, has frequently exposed the army to the most calamitous distress, and, from its novelty and incompatibility with ancient habits, is regarded by the people as burthensome and oppressive, has excited serious discontents, and in some places alarming symptoms of opposition. This mode has, besides, many particular inconveniences, which contribute to make it inadequate to our wants, and ineligible but as an auxiliary.
5thly. That, from the best estimates of the annual expense of the war and the annual revenues which these States are capable of affording, there is a large balance to be supplied by public credit. The resource of domestic loans is inconsiderable, because there are properly speaking few moneyed men, and the few there are can employ their money more profitably otherwise; added to which, the instability of the currency and the deficiency of funds have impaired the public credit.
6thly. That the patience of the army, from an almost uninterrupted series of complicated distress, is now nearly exhausted, and their discontents matured to an extremity, which has recently had very disagreeable consequences, and which demonstrates the absolute necessity of speedy relief, a relief not within the compass of our means. You are too well acquainted with all their sufferings for want of clothing, for want of provisions, for want of pay.
7thly. That, the people being dissatisfied with the mode of supporting the war, there is cause to apprehend, that evils actually felt in the prosecution may weaken those sentiments which began it, founded, not on immediate sufferings, but on a speculative apprehension of future sufferings from the loss of their liberties. There is danger, that a commercial and free people, little accustomed to heavy burthens, pressed by impositions of a new and odious kind, may not make a proper allowance for the necessity of the conjuncture, and may imagine they have only exchanged one tyranny for another.
8thly. That, from all the foregoing considerations result, 1st, absolute necessity of an immediate, ample, and efficacious succor in money, large enough to be a foundation for substantial arrangements of finance, to revive public credit, and give vigor to future operations; 2dly, the vast importance of a decided effort of the allied arms on this continent, the ensuing campaign, to effectuate once for all the great objects of the alliance, the liberty and independence of these States. Without the first we may make a feeble and expiring effort the next campaign, in all probability the period to our opposition. With it, we should be in a condition to continue the war, as long as the obstinacy of the enemy might require. The first is essential to the latter; both combined would bring the contest to a glorious issue, crown the obligations, which America already feels to the magnanimity and generosity of her ally, and perpetuate the union by all the ties of gratitude and affection, as well as mutual advantage, which alone can render it solid and indissoluble.
9thly. That, next to a loan of money, a constant naval superiority on these coasts is the object most interesting. This would instantly reduce the enemy to a difficult defensive, and, by removing all prospect of extending their acquisitions, would take away the motives for prosecuting the war. Indeed, it is not to be conceived how they could subsist a large force in this country, if we had the command of the seas, to interrupt the regular transmission of supplies from Europe. This superiority, (with an aid in money,) would enable us to convert the war into a vigorous offensive. I say nothing of the advantages to the trade of both nations, nor how infinitely it would facilitate our supplies. With respect to us, it seems to be one of two deciding points; and it appears, too, to be the interest of our allies, abstracted from the immediate benefits to this country, to transfer the naval war to America. The number of ports friendly to them, hostile to the British, the materials for repairing their disabled ships, the extensive supplies towards the subsistence of their fleet, are circumstances which would give them a palpable advantage in the contest of these seas.
10thly. That an additional succor in troops would be extremely desirable. Besides a reinforcement of numbers, the excellence of French troops, that perfect discipline and order in the corps already sent, which have so happily tended to improve the respect and confidence of the people for our allies, the conciliating disposition and the zeal for the service, which distinguish every rank, sure indications of lasting harmony,—all these considerations evince the immense utility of an accession of force to the corps now here. Correspondent with these motives, the enclosed minutes of a conference between their Excellencies the Count de Rochambeau, the Chevalier de Ternay, and myself will inform you, that an augmentation to fifteen thousand men was judged expedient for the next campaign; and it has been signified to me, that an application has been made to the court of France to this effect. But if the sending so large a succor in troops should necessarily diminish the pecuniary aid, which our allies may be disposed to grant, it were preferable to diminish the aid in men; for the same sum of money, which would transport from France and maintain here a body of troops with all the necessary apparatus, being put into our hands to be employed by us, would serve to give activity to a larger force within ourselves, and its influence would pervade the whole administration.
11thly. That no nation will have it more in its power to repay what it borrows than this. Our debts are hitherto small. The vast and valuable tracts of unlocated lands, the variety and fertility of climates and soils, the advantages of every kind which we possess for commerce, insure to this country a rapid advancement in population and prosperity, and a certainty, its independence being established, of redeeming in a short term of years the comparatively inconsiderable debts it may have occasion to contract.
That, notwithstanding the difficulties under which we labor, and the inquietudes prevailing among the people, there is still a fund of inclination and resource in the country, equal to great and continued exertions, provided we have it in our power to stop the progress of disgust, by changing the present system, and adopting another more consonant with the spirit of the nation, and more capable of activity and energy in public measures; of which a powerful succor of money must be the basis. The people are discontented; but it is with the feeble and oppressive mode of conducting the war, not with the war itself. They are not unwilling to contribute to its support, but they are unwilling to do it in a way that renders private property precarious; a necessary consequence of the fluctuation of the national currency, and of the inability of government to perform its engagements oftentimes coercively made. A large majority are still firmly attached to the independence of these States, abhor a reunion with Great Britain, and are affectionate to the alliance with France; but this disposition cannot supply the place of means customary and essential in war, nor can we rely on its duration amidst the perplexities, oppressions, and misfortunes, that attend the want of them.
If the foregoing observations are of any use to you, I shall be happy. I wish you a safe and pleasant voyage, the full accomplishment of your mission, and a speedy return; being, with sentiments of perfect friendship, regard, and affection, dear Sir, &c.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
New Windsor, 15 January, 1781.
The unhappy mutiny of the non-comd. [officers] and Privates of the Pensylvania line, the perplexed state of affairs in this quarter, the distressed condition of the Troops at West Point and in the vicinity of it, on acct. of Provision and some essential articles of cloathing, combined with other embarrassments of less importance, have engrossed my whole time and attention, and must be offered as an apology for not complying sooner with the order of Congress of the 1st inst., enclosed in your Excellency’s Letter of the Second, relative to the expediency of removing the French Troops to Virginia.
Congress, being no strangers to the blockade of the French Squadron at Rhode Island, must have had in contemplation a land march of the French army to the above State; to which the season, length of the way, badness of the roads, difficulty of Transportation, and possibly want of covering in a good Military position when there, the expectation of the second division, and the arrangements which are made in consequence by the French General, might be offered as weighty objections by Auxiliary Troops against the measure. But, as Congress have been pleased to ask my opinion of the expediency of it, I think it a duty incumbent on me to add, that it is not agreeable to the sentiments, (perhaps to the orders,) of the officers commanding the Land and Naval force at Rhode Island to separate, while the latter is awed by a superior Marine. The experiment has already been tried.1
I shall act to the best of my judgment in a further exchange of prisoners; and will carry the views of Congress into effect, as far as I am able.
In my last of the 6th I communicated the reasons which prevented my departure for Morris Town upon the first information I received of the revolt of the Pensylvania line, and the contingencies on which my going thither then depended. I found, notwithstanding my utmost exertion and all the aid I could derive from the Governor of this State, that I could only supply the garrison from day to day with Provisions; that it was a doubtful point, tho’ the Troops appeared tolerably quiet in this quarter, how far they were to be depended upon, in a serious and spirited attempt to quell others, whose declared intention was to seek redress of those grievances, of which they themselves participated, and were constantly complaining; while the propriety of weakening the Garrison, supposing the utmost reliance was to be had on them, without Provisions in the Magazine or Works, was not less questionable. On the other hand, all authority in the Officers of the Pensylvania line over their Men being at an end, and the influence of those who remained with them employed to no purpose, I was convinced that the unhappy precedent they had set, and the shock which discipline had received by the revolt, would only be increased by my appearance among them, without the means of enforcing obedience; the necessity of doing which, for the support of Military authority, was so essential as to be attempted at almost every hazard. But to choose for the best, in such perplexing circumstances I was driven to, was not very easy. Ultimately, however, I determined to prepare a detachment of a thousand men, and directed General St. Clair, (who was at Morristown,) to proceed immediately to the Committee of Congress at Trenton, and, if matters were not settled, or in their opinion in a favorable train for it, to make the ulterior arrangements for Militia with Mr. President Reed and Governor Livingston, that, with their assistance, the detachment from hence might be enabled to act effectually. Thus the matter stood when a letter from the Comee. advised me that the business was likely to be accommodated to mutual satisfaction.
It would be happy for us, and favorable to the probable operations of the next Campaign, if, instead of living chiefly upon the Supplies of this State, they and those of Jersey could be held as a kind of reserve Magazine. Proper attention has been paid to such officers of the Continental lines under my immediate command, as now are or have been prisoners with the enemy, in making the new arrangement of the army; and I have no doubt but equal regard will be had to those in the southern army. I shall write to General Greene on this head, and will transmit to him a copy of the resolve explaining the sense of Congress on this matter. I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO MRS. SARAH BACHE.2
New Windsor, 15 January, 1781.
I should have done myself the pleasure to acknowledge the receipt of the letter you did me the favor to write on the 26th of December, at the moment of its receipt, had not some affairs of a very unusual nature (which are too recent and notorious to require explanation), engaged my whole attention. I pray you now to be persuaded, that a sense of the patriotic exertions of yourself and the ladies, who have furnished so handsome and useful a gratuity for the army, at so critical and severe a season, will not easily be effaced, and that the value of the donation will be greatly enhanced by a consideration of the hands by which it was made and presented.
Amidst all the distresses and sufferings of the army, from whatever sources they have arisen, it must be a consolation to our virtuous countrywomen, that they have never been accused of withholding their most zealous efforts to support the cause we are engaged in, and encourage those who are defending them in the field. The army do not want gratitude, nor do they misplace it in this instance.
Although the friendship of your father may oblige him to see some things through too partial a medium, yet the indulgent manner in which he is pleased to express himself respecting me is indeed very pleasing; for nothing in human life can afford a liberal mind more rational and exquisite satisfaction, than the approbation of a wise, a great, and virtuous man.1 Mrs. Washington requests me to present her compliments to Mr. Bache and yourself, with which you will both be pleased to accept of mine, and believe me to be, with great consideration and esteem, dear Madam, &c.
TO COUNT DE ROCHAMBEAU.
I should have done myself the honor of writing sooner to Your Excellency, on the late disturbance in the Pensylvania Line, had I not relied, that General Knox first, and afterwards Count des Deux Ponts,2 would give you the most accurate account of this affair—and had I not been waiting to hear the event of it and collect the particulars to enable me to give you a more perfect idea of it. The causes of complaint of this line, mostly composed of foreigners, and having even some British deserters, must in great part be known to your Excellency. The absolute want of pay and cloathing—the great scarcity of provisions were too severe a trial for men, a great proportion of whom could not be deeply impressed with the feelings of citizens. Some cause of complaint as to their inlistments and perhaps the instigations of internal enemies added to their discontents and contributed to bring them to so disagreeable an issue. The beginning of the disturbance you had from General Knox and the subsequent proceedings have no doubt been related to your Excellency by the Count des Deux Ponts, who being an eye witness had an opportunity of knowing all circumstances. I shall therefore content myself with adding that the civil authority having undertaken to settle the dispute there would have been an impropriety in my interfering in their conciliatory measures, which would not have suited the principles of military discipline;—and that the matter is in a train of being terminated as well as the manner in which it was taken up gave us reason to expect.
It is somewhat extraordinary, that these men, however lost to a sense of duty had so far retained that of honor, as to reject the most advantageous propositions from the enemy. The rest of our Army (the Jersey troops excepted) being chiefly composed of natives, I would flatter myself, will continue to struggle under the same difficulties, they have hitherto endured, which I cannot help remarking seem to reach the bounds of human patience.
I had last evening the pleasure of seeing at my quarters Count de Charlus—Count de Dillon1 and Monsr. Du Mat.2 The first of these Gentlemen acquainted me with the object of his journey to Philadelphia, which he is preparing to pursue agreeable to your desire.
I cannot forbear lamenting, Sir, that the absolute want of money, an evil too well known in our army, obliged me to interrupt the chain of communication.
But the conveyance by the post is so dilatory, and it is so important we should speedily hear from each other, that I am going to renew the chain from this place to Hartford and propose to you the expediency of having it continued to Rhode Island.
Nothing could give me greater pleasure than to have the honor of waiting on you at New Port and improving the opportunity to make a more extensive acquaintance with the troops under your orders. Besides the satisfaction, I should feel in seeing you again I think it very useful that we should have a further conversation on our affairs, in which I may avail myself of your opinion. But our circumstances have been such, that it has hitherto been out of my power to execute this favorite project of mine. The moment I do not think my presence at West Point essential, shall be devoted to a visit to your Excellency.
The reduction of my family by various contingencies, so that I had for some days but a single Aide—and the additional weight of business which of course devolved upon me, have prevented my writing to your Excellency lately as often as I wished.
By intelligence from New York, we hear the enemy have collected transports on the North River—It is probable that hearing of discontents among our troops, they mean to be in a situation to improve any opening that may offer.
Lt. Col. Laurens one of my Aide de Camps having been appointed by Congress to repair to the Court of France, to negotiate matters relative to our finances, as well as to other articles of great importance to our Army, they have directed him to confer before his departure with your Excellency and Monsieur Destouches.
In consequence of his instructions, I expect he will be shortly at New Port, where he will both receive your orders for France and avail himself of any advice your Excellency may be pleased to favour him with.
With sentiments of the most perfect regard and attachment, I have, &c.
TO THE EXECUTIVES OF THE STATES.1
Head Quarters,New Windsor,
I have received the disagreeable intelligence, that a part of the Jersey line had followed the example of that of the Pennsylvania; and when the advices came away, it was expected the revolt would be general. The precise intention of the mutineers was not known, but their complaints and demands were similar to those of the Pennsylvanians.
Persuaded that without some decisive effort, at all hazard’s, to suppress this dangerous spirit, it would speedily infect the whole army. I have ordered as large a Detachment as we could spare from these posts, to march under Major General Howe, with orders to compel the mutineers to unconditional submission—to listen to no terms while they were in a state of resistance, and on their reduction, to execute instantly a few of the most active, and most incendiary leaders. I am not certain what part the troops detached for this purpose will act, but I flatter myself they will do their duty. I prefer any extremity to which the Jersey troops may be driven to a compromise.1
The weakness of the garrison, but still more its embarrassing distress for want of provisions, made it impossible to prosecute such measures with the Pennsylvanians, as the nature of the case demanded—and while we were making arrangements, as far as practicable to supply these defects, an accommodation took place which will not only subvert the Pennsylvania line, but have a very pernicious influence on the whole army. I mean however by these remarks, only to give an idea of the miserable situation we are in, not to blame a measure which perhaps in our circumstances was the best that could have been adopted. The same embarrassments operate against coercion at this moment, but not in so great a degree; the Jersey troops not being, from their numbers, so formidable as were the Pennsylvanians.
I dare not detail the risks we run from the scantiness of supplies. We have received few or no cattle for some time past, nor do know of any shortly to be expected, The salted meat we ought to have reserved in the garrison, is now nearly exhausted. I cannot but renew my solicitations with your state to every expedience for contributing to our immediate relief.
With perfect respect, &c.
TO THE OFFICER COMMANDING THE BRITISH FLEET AT NEW YORK.
Through a variety of channels, representations of too serious a nature to be disregarded have come to us, that the American naval prisoners in the harbor of New York are suffering all the extremities of distress, from a too crowded and in all respects disagreeable and unwholesome situation, on board the prisonships, and from the want of food and other necessaries. The picture given us of their sufferings is truly calamitous and deplorable. If just, it is the obvious interest of both parties, (to omit the plea of humanity,) that the causes should be without delay inquired into and removed; if false, it is equally desirable, that effectual measures should be taken to obviate misapprehensions. This can only be done by permitting an officer, of confidence on both sides, to visit the prisoners in their respective confinements, and to examine into their true condition. This will either at once satisfy you, that, by some abuse of trust in the persons immediately charged with the care of the prisoners, their treatment is really such as has been described to us, and requires a change; or it will convince us, that the clamors are ill grounded. A disposition to aggravate the miseries of captivity is too illiberal to be imputed to any but those subordinate characters, who, in every service, are too often remiss or unprincipled. This reflection assures me, that you will acquiesce in the mode proposed for ascertaining the truth, and detecting delinquency on one side, or falsehood on the other.
The discussions and asperities, which have had too much place on the subject of prisoners, are so irksome in themselves, and have had so many ill consequences, that it is infinitely to be wished, that there may be no room given to revive them. The mode I have suggested appears to me calculated to bring the present case to a fair, direct, and satisfactory issue. I am not sensible of any inconveniences it can be attended with, and I therefore hope for your concurrence. I shall be glad, as soon as possible, to hear from you on the subject. I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO THE COMMISSIONERS FOR REDRESSING THE GRIEVANCES OF THE NEW JERSEY LINE.
Ringwood, 27 Januury, 1781.
The fatal tendency of that spirit, which has shown itself in the Pennsylvania and Jersey lines, and which derived so much encouragement from impunity in the case of the former, determined me at all events to pursue a different conduct with respect to the latter. For this purpose I detached a body of troops under Major-General Howe, with orders to compel the mutineers to unconditional submission, and execute on the spot a few of the principal incendiaries. This has been effected this morning; and we have reason to believe the mutinous disposition of the troops is now completely subdued, and succeeded by a genuine penitence.1
But having punished guilt and supported authority, it now becomes proper to do justice. I therefore wish the commissioners, as soon as convenient, to enter upon the objects for which they have been appointed. But I think it my duty to observe to them the necessity of the greatest caution in discussing one article, the terms of the enlistments of the troops. In transacting this with the Pennsylvanians, for want of proper care, the greater part of the line has been dismissed, though only a small proportion was entitled to a dismission. Authentic and unequivocal proofs have been since found, that a majority of the discharged men were fairly and explicitly enlisted for the war. This evil arose from admitting the oaths of the individuals themselves, before the vouchers could be assembled. From the temper of the soldiery, who will avoid no means of getting rid of the service, it becomes necessary to admit none but the most unsuspicious evidence in their favor. Generally on investigation the complaints on this head have appeared ill founded; and as the presumption is strong against the soldier, the proofs of an unfair detention ought to be equally strong. Men are extremely wanted. It is at an infinite expense that they are procured, and they ought not lightly to be released from their engagements.1
Whenever a complaint has been made to me, I have invariably directed an inquiry; for I have ever considered it as not less impolitic than unjust in our service to use fraud in engaging or retaining men. But as I mentioned above, the complaint has much oftener been found to originate in the levity of the soldier than in truth. I have the honor to be, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL HOWE.
New Windsor, 29 January, 1781.
I have received your letter of this day with the papers accompanying it. For fear of a revival of the discontents in the Jersey line, I think it advisable there should remain near them other troops on whose fidelity we can more perfectly rely. On this account I approve the detention of the New Hampshire detachment and the artillery, till we hear something more of the movements on Staten Island. Perhaps on receiving intelligence of what has happened in the Jersey line, General Robertson1 may desist from his supposed intention.2 To march the Jersey troops alone to Morristown might only be one temptation the more; and to harass other troops with that march in the present state of things would, in my opinion, be inexpedient on more accounts than one. If the Massachusetts detachment is pretty commodiously situated, it may remain where it is till we receive further intelligence; if not, let it return to West Point. In this case you will yourself also return. Signify, if you please, to Colonel Barber my approbation of his keeping the New Hampshire detachment and the artillery till further orders. I am, with great regard, Sir, &c.
TO ROBERT R. LIVINGSTON.
New Windsor, 31 January, 1781.
The disagreeable events wch. have taken place in the Pennsylvania and New Jersey lines, the general discontent of the army for want of pay, cloathing, and Provisions, added to the usual course of business (which increases with our perplexities) will, I am persuaded, be admitted as a sufficient apology for my not acknowledging the receipt of your confidential and obliging letter of the 8th till now.
To learn from so good authority as your information, that the distresses of the citizens of this State are maturing into complaints, which are likely to produce serious consequences, is a circumstance as necessary to be known, as it is unpleasing to hear, and I thank you for the communication. The committees now forming are at this crisis disagreeable things; and if they cannot be counteracted, or diverted from their original purposes, may outgo the views of the well-meaning members of them, and plunge this Country into deeper distress and confusion, than it has hitherto experienced; though I have no doubt but that the same bountiful Providence, which has relieved us in a variety of difficulties heretofore, will enable us to emerge from them ultimately, and crown our struggles with success.
To trace these evils to their sources is by no means difficult; and errors once discovered are more than half corrected. This I hope is our case at present; but there can be no radical cure till Congress is vested, by the several States, with full and ample Powers to enact Laws for general purposes, and till the executive business is placed in the hands of able men and responsible characters. Requisitions then will be supported by Law. Jealousies, and those ruinous delays and ill-timed compliances, arising from distrust and the fear of doing more than a Sister State, will cease. Business will be properly arranged; system and order will take place; and œconomy must follow; but not till we have corrected the fundamental errors enumerated above.
It would be no difficult matter to prove, that less than half the present expenditures, (including certificates,) is more than sufficient, if we had money, and these alterations in our political movements were adopted, to answer all our purposes. Taxes of course would be lessened, the burden would be equal and light, and men sharing a common lot would neither murmur nor despond.
The picture you have drawn of the distresses of the People of this State I am persuaded is true; and I have taken the liberty in a late letter, and in as delicate terms as I could express my sentiments, to hint to Congress the propriety of the policy of leaving the resources of this State and the Jersey as a kind of reserve. More than this might bring on me the charge of an intermeddler, till I could speak decisively from my own knowledge. * * *
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Head Quarters,New Windsor,
I have on different occasions done myself the honor to represent to Congress the inconveniences arising from the want of a proper gradation of punishments in our military code; but, as no determination has been communicated to me, I conclude a multiplicity of business may have diverted their attention from the object. As I am convinced a great part of the vices of our discipline springs from this source, I take the liberty again to mention the subject. The highest corporal punishment we are allowed to give is a hundred lashes; between that and death there are no degrees. Instances dayly occurring of offences for which the former is entirely inadequate, Courts-Martial, in order to preserve some proportion between the crime and the punishment, are obliged to pronounce sentence of death. Capital sentences on this account become more frequent in our service, than in any other; so frequent as to render their execution in most cases inexpedient; and it happens from this, that the greater offences often escape punishment, while lesser are commonly punished; which cannot but operate as an encouragement to the commission of the former.
The inconveniences of this defect are obvious. Congress are sensible of the necessity of punishment in an army, of the justice and policy of a due proportion between the crime and the penalty, and, of course, of the necessity of proper degrees in the latter. I shall therefore content myself with observing, that it appears to me indispensable that there should be an extension of the present corporal punishment, and also that it would be useful to authorize Courts-Martial to sentence delinquents to labor at public works; perhaps even for some crimes, particularly desertion, to transfer them from the land to the sea service, where they have less opportunity to indulge their inconstancy. A variety in punishment is of utility, as well as a proportion. The number of lashes may either be indefinite, left to the discretion of the Court to fix or limited to a larger number. In this case I would recommend five hundred.
There is one evil, however, which I shall particularize, resulting from the imperfection of our regulations in this respect. It is the increase of arbitrary punishments. Officers, finding discipline cannot be maintained by a regular course of proceeding, are tempted to use their own discretion, which sometimes occasions excesses; to correct which, the interests of discipline will not permit much rigor. Prompt and therefore arbitrary punishments are not to be avoided in an army; but the necessity for them will be more or less, in proportion as the military laws have more or less vigor.
There is another thing in our articles of war, which I beg leave to suggest to Congress the propriety of altering, it is the 2d article of the 4th section, allowing commanding officers of corps to furlough their soldiers. This privilege, if suffered to operate, would often deprive the army of more men than it could spare. It has been attended with abuses, it is disagreeable for a general order to restrain the exercise of a privilege granted by authority of Congress. To prevent uneasiness and discussion, it were to be wished Congress would think proper to repeal this article, and vest the power of designating the mode of granting furloughs in the Commander-in-chief, or commanding officer of a separate army. It would perhaps be useful to prescribe a printed form, for which purpose I have taken the liberty to enclose one. This would hinder counterfeits and impositions. On the same principle I enclose the form of a discharge. It would in my opinion be a good regulation, that a soldier returning home, either on furlough or discharged, who did not in ten days after his return produce to the nearest Magistrate his printed certificate, should be apprehended by the magistrate as a deserter, and through the governor be reported to the general officer commanding in the State or department. This regulation, published in the army and in the several States, would have a tendency to discourage desertion. Something of this kind has been lately adopted in Virginia, and I doubt not will have a good effect. It were to be wished its utility may become general. If Congress approve I wish the Board of War may be directed to have a number of printed copies made of the furloughs and passes. I have the honor to be, &c.
P. S. I have just received the agreeable account contained in a letter from the Count de Rochambeau of which the enclosed is a copy.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL ST. CLAIR.
New Windsor, 3 February, 1781.
The unexpected reduction of the Pennsylvania line, from the unfortunate affair, adds to the necessity of the greatest attention to improve the measures adopted for recruiting it. I do not know precisely what these are; but I am informed in general that money is raising for the purpose, and that the recruiting service goes on with success. In order to have it conducted with regularity and activity, I am to request you will undertake to superintend it, and make your arrangements with the State accordingly. Enclosed you will find a copy of the instructions to the recruiting officers of the other parts of the army, which will also be proper for the government of those of your State. We have found from experience, that, by some means or other, numbers of men are lost between the place of enlistment and the place of rendezvous. To prevent this, as far as possible, will be worthy your particular attention. I have permitted General Wayne to retire for a while. General Irvine will immediately assist you in the execution of the business.
It seems a great part of the soldiers of your line have fraudulently procured a discharge, by the precipitate admission of their oaths before the papers relative to their enlistments could be produced. In right, this cannot exempt them from their engagements, and after what has happened, if it were thought expedient to compel the return of such, as being explicitly engaged for the war, have thus perjured themselves, I should have no doubt of its justice; and would take the most effectual and convenient measures to notify them, that if they did not immediately return to their duty, they should be considered and treated as deserters. I perceive there are objections to the measure, and, unacquainted as I am with all the circumstances, I cannot competently judge of its propriety. I therefore shall be obliged to you for your opinion. Let me hear from time to time of your arrangements and progress. I am, with great esteem and regard, &c.
TO JOHN SULLIVAN, IN CONGRESS.
New Windsor, 4 February, 1781.
Colo. Armand delivered me your favor of the 29th ulto. last Evening, and I thank you for the sevl. communications contained in it. The measure adopted by Congress of appointing Ministers of War, Finance, and for Foreign Affairs, I think a very wise one. To give efficacy to it, proper characters will, no doubt, be chosen to conduct the business of these departments. How far Colo. Hamilton, of whom you ask my opinion as a financier, has turned his thoughts to that particular study, I am unable to ansr., because I never entered upon a discussion of this point with him. But this I can venture to advance, from a thorough knowledge of him, that there are few men to be found, of his age, who has a more general knowledge than he possesses; and none, whose soul is more firmly engaged in the cause, or who exceeds him in probity and sterling virtue.1
I am clearly in sentiment with you, that our cause only became distressed, and apparently desperate, from an improper management of it; and that errors once discovered are more than half mended. I have no doubt of our abilities or resources, but we must not slumber nor Sleep; they never will be drawn forth if we do; nor will violent exertions, which subside with the occasion, answer our purposes. It is a provident foresight, a proper arrangement of business, system and order in the execution, that is to be productive of that œconomy, which is to defeat the efforts and hopes of Great Britain; and I am happy, thrice happy, on private as well as public accts., to find, that these are in train. For it will ease my shoulders of an immense burthen, which the deranged and perplexed situation of our affairs, and the distresses of every department of the army, which concentered in the Comr.-in-chief, had placed upon them.
I am not less pleased to hear that Maryland has acceded to the confederation, and that Virginia has relinquished its claim to the Land West of the Ohio, which, for fertility of Soil, pleasantness of clime, and other natural advantages, is equal to any known tract of Country in the Universe, of the same extent, taking the great Lakes for its northern boundary.1
I wish most devoutly a happy completion to your plan of finance, (which you say is near finished,) and much success to your scheme of borrowing coined specie and plate. But in what manner do you propose to apply the latter? As a fund to redeem its value in Paper to be emitted, or to coin it? If the latter, it will add one more to a thousand other reasons, wch. might be offered in proof of the necessity of vesting legislative or dictatorial powers in Congress, to make Laws of general utility for the purposes of war, so that they might prohibit, under the pains and penalty of death, specie and provisions from going to the Enemy for Goods. The Traffic with New York is immense. Individual States will not make it felony, lest, (among other reasons,) it should not become genl.; and nothing short of it will ever check, much less stop a practice, which, at the same time that it serves to drain us of our Provision and Specie, removes the barrier between us and the enemy, corrupts the morals of our people by a lucrative traffic, by degrees weakens the opposition, affords a means for obtaining regular and perfect intelligence of every thing among us, while even in this respect we benefit nothing from a fear of discovery. Men of all descriptions are now indiscriminately engaging in it, Whig, Tory, Speculator. By its being practised by those of the latter class, in a Manner with impunity, men, who two or three yrs. ago would have shuddered at the idea of such connexions, now pursue it with avidity, and reconcile it to themselves (in which their profits plead powerfully) upon a principle of equality with the Tory, who, being actuated by principle (favorable to us), and knowing that a forfeiture of the Goods to the Informer was all he had to dread, and that this was to be eluded by an agreemt. not to inform against each other, went into the measure without risk.
This is a digression; but the subject is of so serious a nature and so interesting to our wellbeing as a nation, that I never expect to see a happy termination of the war, nor great national concerns well conducted in Peace, till there is something more than a recommendatory power in Congress. It is not possible in time of war, that business can be conducted well without it. The last words therefore of my letter, and the first wish of my heart, concur in favor of it. I am with much esteem and respect, &c.
TO GOVERNOR JEFFERSON.
New Windsor, 6 February, 1781.
I am much obliged to your Excellency for your letter of the 10th of January, giving me an account of the enemy’s incursion into your State. Baron Steuben has informed me of their successive operations to five miles below Hood’s. It is mortifying to see so inconsiderable a party committing such extensive depredations with impunity; but, considering the situation of your State, it is to be wondered you have hitherto suffered so little molestation. I am apprehensive you will experience more in future; nor should I be surprised if the enemy were to establish a post in Virginia, till the season for opening the campaign here. But as the evils you have to apprehend from these predatory incursions are not to be compared with the injury to the common cause, and with the danger to your State in particular, from the conquest of the States to the southward of you, I am persuaded the attention to your immediate safety will not divert you from the measures intended to reinforce the southern army, and put it in a condition to stop the progress of the enemy in that quarter. The late accession of force makes them very formidable in Carolina, too powerful to be resisted without powerful succors from Virginia; and it is certainly her policy, as well as the interest of America, to keep the weight of the war at a distance from her. There is no doubt that the principal object of Arnold’s operations is to make a diversion in favor of Cornwallis; and to remove this motive, by disappointing the intention, will be one of the surest ways for removing the enemy.
We have just received an account, that the enemy’s fleet, employed in blockading that of our allies at Rhode Island, has lately suffered severely by a storm. One seventy-four is said to have been stranded and entirely lost on the east end of Long Island, another (some accounts say two others) dismasted and towed into Gardiner’s Bay, and a ninety-gun driven to sea in great distress. I expect every moment a confirmation of this agreeable intelligence, and the particulars. I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO MRS. FRANCIS, MRS. HILLEGAS, MRS. CLARKSON, MRS. BACHE, AND MRS. BLAIR.
New Windsor, 13 February, 1781.
The benevolent office, which added lustre to the qualities that ornamented your deceased friend,1 could not have descended to more zealous or more deserving successors. The contributions of the association you represent have exceeded what could have been expected, and the spirit that animated the members of it entitles them to an equal place with any, who have preceded them in the walk of female patriotism. It embellishes the American character with a new trait, by proving that the love of country is blended with those softer domestic virtues, which have always been allowed to be more peculiarly your own.
You have not acquired admiration in your own country only; it is paid to you abroad, and, you will learn with pleasure, by a part of your own sex, where female accomplishments have attained their highest perfection, and who from the commencement have been the patronesses of American liberty.
The army ought not to regret its sacrifices or sufferings, when they meet with so flattering a reward, as in the sympathy of your sex; nor can it fear that its interests will be neglected, while espoused by advocates as powerful as they are amiable. I can only answer to the sentiments, which you do me the honor to express for me personally, that they would more than repay a life devoted to the service of the public and to testimonies of gratitude to yourselves. Accept the assurances of the perfect respect and esteem, with which I am, Ladies, your most obedient, &c.
TO COUNT DE ROCHAMBEAU.
New Windsor, 15 February, 1781.
The Count de St. Maime1 last evening did me the honor to deliver me your letter of the 3d instant.2 It appears by the report of the naval officer, that the enemy were inferior to the Chevalier Destouches, and, from the situation of the Bedford and the America, would probably remain so for some time. It appears also to have been your Excellency’s expectation, that M. Destouches would either go with his whole fleet, or send a detachment to Chesapeake Bay in quest of Arnold.
There are a variety of positions where Arnold, by putting his vessels under protection of land batteries, may defy a naval attack, and, by collecting the provisions with which the country abounds and raising a few works, may remain in security till the enemy, by repairing their damaged ships, should regain their superiority at sea and come to his relief. Portsmouth, where he was by the last accounts, is particularly favorable to his security in this view. Unless therefore the ships, which M. Destouches may have sent, should by good fortune suddenly fall in with him, embarked and moving from one place to another, they will have little prospect of success.
From these considerations, if the object is judged of sufficient importance, it is in my opinion essential that there should be a coöperation of land and naval forces, and that M. Destouches should protect the expedition with his whole fleet. How far this will be safe or advisable, he can best judge; but it has appeared to me probable, that he would prefer going with his whole fleet, to a separation; as, by making a detachment he would lose his superiority and would give Mr. Arbuthnot an opportunity to escort his disabled ships safe to New York, and follow his detachment with the remainder.
Imagining it to be not unlikely, that he may think it advisable to employ his whole fleet upon the occasion, and that your Excellency would approve a co-operation with a part of your army, the propriety of which, for want of a knowledge of your local situation, I cannot judge; to give the enterprise all possible chance of success, I have put under marching orders a detachment of twelve hundred men, which will proceed in a few days towards the Head of Elk River, there to embark and proceed to a coöperation. I did not delay the march of this detachment till I could hear from M. Destouches and you, as there is not a moment to be lost, if the expedition is to be undertaken; and the inconvenience of moving the troops to no purpose will be small, in comparison with the advantage of gaining time. I should have made it more considerable, could I have spared the troops. It may arrive at its destination of operation in about four weeks from this time.
If the Chevalier Destouches and your Excellency should approve the project of a coöperation, in which the whole fleet shall be employed, it will be desirable that you could embark about a thousand troops on board the ships, and as many pieces of siege artillery, with the necessary apparatus, as you will think proper. This will give a degree of certainty to the enterprise, which will be precarious without it.
Arnold’s force consists of about fifteen hundred men. As these will be in intrenchments, (though not formidable,) an inferior regular force with the militia will find it difficult to reduce them; but, with the addition of the detachments I have proposed to you to send, the affair would soon be terminated. This addition is of importance; but the sending of artillery is absolutely necessary, as it would be productive of too much delay and expense to send heavy pieces with their stores from hence by land at this season.
As by this movement the troops will be exposed to a disagreeable march, and some expense will be incurred, I shall be glad that both inconveniences may cease as soon as possible, if the project is not carried into execution; and I therefore request your Excellency will favor me with an immediate answer. The capture of Arnold and his detachment will be an event particularly agreeable to this country, a great relief to the southern States, and of important utility in our future operations.1
I regret that the present prospect will compel me to postpone setting out for Rhode Island till I hear from you, and will deprive me still longer of the pleasure, for which I impatiently wish, of seeing your Excellency and the army. I am, &c.
February 19th.—The destruction of the corps under the command of Arnold is of such immense importance to the welfare of the southern States, that I have resolved to attempt it with the detachment I now send, in conjunction with the militia, even if it should not be convenient to your Excellency to detach a part of your force, provided M. Destouches is able to protect our operation by such a disposition of his fleet, as will give us the command of the Bay, and prevent succors being sent from New York. By a letter I have just received from Major General the Baron de Steuben, who commands in Virginia, it appears we may expect every thing from the temper of the militia, of which militia are capable; but an additional regular force to that I am sending would no doubt make the success much more prompt and certain. If M. Destouches should send any ships into the Bay, on the principle of a co-operation, it will be necessary that a light frigate should come up to the Head of Elk to protect the passage of the troops across the Bay. I impatiently wait to be favored with your Excellency’s answer on these points. With the truest respect, &c.1
TO BRIGADIER-GENERAL KNOX.
Head Quarters, 16 February, 1781.
In the conference between the Count de Rochambeau and myself, it was agreed, that if by the aid of our Allies, we can have a Naval Superiority through the next Campaign, and an army of thirty thousand men (or double the force of the enemy & its dependencies) early enough in the season to operate in that quarter, we ought to prefer it to evry other object, as the most important and decisive, and applications have been made to the Court of France in this spirit which it is to be hoped will produce the desired effect.
It is therefore incumbent upon us to make evry necessary preparation on our part for the Siege of New York as far as our funds and means render practicable—Applications have been also made to the Court of France for a large supply of powder, arms, heavy cannon, and several other essential articles in your Department—But we cannot ascertain the extent of the success these applications will meet with, and as they only go to such articles as are less within the compass of our own internal means, we ought not to neglect any exertion in our power for procuring within ourselves those things of which we shall stand in need.
I give you this communication of what is in prospect that you may take your measures accordingly by making such estimates and demands, and other arrangements as may appear to you best calculated to produce what we want—And you may rely upon all the support it will be in my power to give—In your calculations, you will estimate the force on our side at about twenty thousand men; the remainder with a proper siege and field apparatus are to be supposed to be furnished by our allies—You are well acquainted with New York and its defences, and you can therefore judge of the means requisite for its reduction by a Siege.—The general idea of the plan of operations is this (if we are able to procure the force we count upon) to make two attacks, one against the works on York Island and the other against the works of Brooklyn on Long Island—the latter will probably be conducted by our Allies—ulterior operations must depend on circumstances—If we should find ourselves unable to undertake this most capital expedition, and if we have means equal to it we shall attempt a secondary object, the reduction of Charles Town—Savanah, Penobscot may successively come into contemplation—Your dispositions will have reference to these different objects though indeed a preparation for the principal one will substantially comprehend every lesser—These instructions would have been earlier given to you—but for the commotions in the army which suspended my attention.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
New Windsor, 17 February, 1781.
I have been honored with your Excellency’s favors of the 9th instant.
General Morgan’s signal victory over Colo. Tarleton with the flower of the British army reflects the highest honor upon our Arms, and I hope will at least be attended with this advantage, that it will check the offensive operations of the Enemy, untill General Greene shall have collected a much more respectable force than he had under his command by the last accounts from him. I am apprehensive, that the Southern States will look upon this victory as much more decisive in its consequences than it really is, and will relax in their exertions. It is to be wished, that the Gentlemen of Congress, who have interest in those States, would remove such ideas, if any such should be found to exist, and rather stimulate them to redouble their efforts to crush an enemy, pretty severely shaken by the two successful strokes upon Ferguson and Tarleton. * * *
I shall not fail to communicate to Major-General Parsons, and the Officers and Men who were under his command, the very flattering notice which Congress has been pleased to take of their expedition to Morrisania.1
Upon General Knox’s return from the Eastward, I desired him to form an Estimate of the Artillery and Ordnance Stores necessary for an operation upon the largest scale, which would be that against New York. He has accordingly furnished one, Copy of which I do myself the honor to enclose for the information of Congress, and that application may be made in time to the States possessed of the heaviest Cannon for the loan of them and other Stores, should they be wanted, and that directions may be given to the Board of War, and to those Boards whose Business it is to provide Ammunition, &c., to endeavor to procure the deficiency of the estimate. We ought without doubt to be prepared for an operation against New York. Should circumstances make it requisite to lessen the object, the overplus Stores would nevertheless form not only a valuable but such a Magazine as we ought ever to have in reserve. The impossibility of crossing the North River with Horses, and some unforeseen Business, have hitherto prevented my journey to Newport, and makes the time of my setting out precarious.
I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO ABRAHAM SKINNER.
Head Quarters,New Windsor,
You are informed of a number of officers of the Convention troops, who have been ordered to Elizabeth Town for the purpose of going into New York to be exchanged. I am now to direct you will exchange them in the following manner: All those who have no similar ranks in possession of the enemy, you will place against such of our colonels as have been longest in captivity, the others, you will exchange against an equal number rank for rank.
But as two thirds of the officers of the Convention troops are now nearly exchanged, the enemy are bound on their own principles to let him2 enter into immediate contemplation for exchange; and we ought in justice to ourselves to insist upon it.
Besides Lt. General Burgoyne the enemy owe us for three or four hundred private men who may now be applied in conjunction with General Burgoyne to the exchange of all our officers remaining on Long Island.
You will therefore immediately make the following proposition to the enemy—to place Lt.-General Burgoyne, the officers of Convention on their way to Elizabeth Town and the above mentioned privates, in opposition to our officers prisoners in this quarter;—the ballance which will be due us to be paid by the release of such officers of the Southern prisoners as we shall name to the amount of that ballance.
This proposition is so reasonable that I dare say it will be readily complied with by the enemy; especially as they must be sensible that the continuing to make any difficulties about Lt. General Burgoyne will necessarily operate to the prejudice of future exchanges.
It is not however to prevent the immediate exchange of the officers on their march as this is a point already agreed upon.
Governor Livingston has represented to me that some dissatisfactions have arisen about the manner of disposing of the prisoners made by the militia of the State. You are to observe the following rule:
To put all the persons taken in arms by the militia in a common stock to be exchanged indifferently for any prisoners of war in the hands of the enemy whether Continental troops or Militia according to priority of capture.
To exchange all mere citizens, persons not taken in arms for the citizens of the State whose militia has captured them.
The equity of the first rule must be obvious, as all the prisoners made by the Continental troops are applied indifferently to the exchange of themselves and the Militia taken in arms by the same rule of priority of capture; and without reciprocity there would be an evident disadvantage on the side of the Continental troops.
As the Governor also mentions some inconvenience for want of information on these points, I am to desire you will make him monthly reports of all exchanges of the Militia and citizens of the State made by you and of the prisoners made by the Militia who have come into your hands.
I wish you too immediately to give him an account of what has been done in these respects since you have been in the department that he may see the State is not injured by our arrangements.
I am frequently at a loss for want of your presence at Head Quarters.—I am therefore to desire you will reside constantly near it. When any particular business calls you else where you will represent it at Head Quarters. I am, &c.
TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE.
I have ordered a detachment to be made at this post, to rendezvous at Peekskill the 19th instant, which, together with another to be formed at Morristown from the Jersey troops, will amount to about twelve hundred rank and file. The destination of this detachment is to act against the corps of the enemy now in Virginia, in conjunction with the militia, and some ships from the fleet of the Chevalier Destouches, which he informs me sailed the 9th instant from Newport.
You will take the command of this detachment, which you will in the first instance march by battalions towards Pompton, there to rendezvous and afterwards proceed with all possible despatch to the Head of Elk. You will make your arrangements with the quartermaster-general concerning the route you are to take, concerning transportation, tents, intrenching tools and other articles in his department, of which you may stand in need; with the commissary-general concerning provisions; with the clothier concerning clothes, shoes &c.; and with General Knox concerning the artillery and stores you will want for the expedition. The result of these several arrangements you will report at headquarters.
When you arrive at Trenton, if the Delaware is open and boats are readily to be had, you will save time by going from thence by water to Christiana Bridge, Marcus Hook, or Chester; if you cannot avail yourself of this mode, you must proceed by land, by the route which the quartermaster and commissary may designate as most convenient for covering and supplies. You are not to suffer the detachment to be delayed for want of either provision, forage, or wagons on the route. Where the ordinary means will not suffice with certainty, you will have recourse to military impress. You will take your measures with the quartermaster-general in such a manner, that vessels may be ready by your arrival at the Head of Elk to convey you down the Bay to Hampton Roads, or to the point of operation; and you will open a previous communication with the officer commanding the ships of his Christian Majesty, to concert your coöperations, and to engage him to send, (if it can be spared,) a frigate up the Bay to cover your passage, without which, or some other armed vessels, might be otherwise insecure.
When you arrive at your destination, you must act as your own judgment and the circumstances shall direct. You will open a correspondence with the Baron de Steuben, who now commands in Virginia, informing him of your approach, and requesting him to have a sufficient body of militia ready to act in conjunction with your detachment. It will be advisable for him to procure persons in whom he can confide, well acquainted with the country at Portsmouth and in the vicinity; some, who are capable of giving you a military idea of it, and others to serve as guides.
You should give the earliest attention to acquiring a knowledge of the different rivers, but particularly James River, that you may know what harbors can best afford shelter and security to the cooperating squadron, in case of blockade by a superior force. You are to do no act whatever with Arnold, that directly or by implication may screen him from the punishment due to his treason and desertion, which, if he should fall into your hands, you will execute in the most summary way.
Having recommended it to Count de Rochambeau to detach a land force with the fleet, that it may be destined for the Chesapeake Bay (though, from the disposition which has already taken place, it is not probable that land force will be sent yet), if the recommendation should be complied with, you will govern yourself in coöperating with the officers commanding the French troops, agreeably to the intentions and instructions of his Most Christian Majesty, of which you were the bearer, and which, being still in your possession, it is unnecessary for me to recite.
You will keep me regularly advised of your movements and progress; and, when the object of the detachment is fulfilled (or unfortunately disappointed), you will return with it by the same rout, if circumstances admit of it, and with as much expedition as possible to this post. I wish you a successful issue to the enterprise, and all the glory which I am persuaded you will deserve. Given at Head-Quarters, New Windsor, February 20th, 1781.1
TO ELBRIDGE GERRY.
New Windsor, 20 February, 1781.
The mail of last week brought me your letter of the 7th.
Never having entertained a doubt of your friendship, the trouble you have taken to remove a supposed suspicion of it would have given me concern were it not overbalanced by the pleasure I feel at receiving in the same instant fresh assurances of your esteem and regard for me. Declarations thereof on your part require candor & confidence on mine. I do not scruple therefore to confess, that I was not a little hurt by the implications, and the general complexion of Mr. Lovell’s letter,—and was not a little embarrassed in determining upon a line of conduct proper for me to observe on the occasion.
Conscious that (neither directly nor indirectly) no act, word or thought of mine had given birth to the motion transmitted you, it was not a very pleasant thing to see a letter published, the natural interpretation of which, held out very different ideas.
The paragraph immediately following the motion is perfectly enigmatical to an uninformed mind; but from the context and other circumstances, must be supposed to relate to the same person and subject. I have heard it did not, but the combination was remarkable, and its falling into the hands of the enemy, and being exposed to public view, unfortunate.1
TO GOVERNOR JEFFERSON.
I do myself the honor to communicate to your Excellency a circumstance, which I hope will be followed by the most salutary consequences to the State of Virginia in particular, and which may ultimately have the happiest effect upon the interests of America in General. The Chevalier des Touche commanding his Most Christian Majesty’s Squadron in the Harbour of New Port, finding himself enabled, since the late misfortune which happened to the British Fleet in Gardener’s Bay, to make a detachment, has dispatched a ship of the Line of 64 Guns and three Frigates to Chesapeak in hopes of finding there and destroying the Fleet under the direction of Arnold. The French Ships sailed the 9th instant from Newport with a fair Wind—They have taken on board a quantity of Arms and Cloathing which had arrived there on account of the State of Virginia.
It is more than probable that these Ships will have arrived in the Chesapeak before my letter reaches you, but should they be retarded by adverse Winds or other accidents, your Excellency need not be told that the most profound secrecy will be necessary on such an occasion, for should the least hint escape, and Arnold come to the knowledge of it, he would not hesitate to take the opportunity of pushing out of the Bay. The Ships once arrived at their stations—the Matter becomes of public Notoriety without any disadvantage.
From an apprehension, that the Enemy may take such a position, as will enable them to defend themselves and their shipping without a land co-operation, and knowing that militia cannot be depended on for the vigorous measures that it may be necessary to pursue, I have put a respectable detachment from this Army in motion. It is commanded by Major General the Marquis de la Fayette. It will proceed by land to the Head of Elk, at which I calculate it will arrive by the 6th of March at farthest, and will fall down the Chesapeak in Transports.
I have written to the Baron de Steuben by this conveyance—given him the foregoing intelligence, and some directions relative to the position which he is to take with the Militia—collecting magazines, etc. It will be highly necessary that an immediate, safe and expeditious communication should be opened between the commanding officer of the French Squadron and the commanding officer on Shore—In this, and every other measure tending to promote the public good, I am confident of your Excellency’s assistance, and I have desired the Baron to make application to you in every case where your countenance may be wanting. The Marquis de la Fayette, who is the Senior officer, will take the command upon his arrival—I recollect but one thing further which will require your Excellency’s more immediate attention, and that is the Business of providing the most experienced and trusty Bay and River Pilots (should it not have been done before this reaches you) and sending them to the commanding officer to be forwarded to the Fleet. This trouble must necessarily devolve upon your Excellency or some Gentlemen appointed by you, because our officers, being strangers, might be imposed upon in this most material point—I have, &c.
P. S. Should you have occasion to write to the Marquis de la Fayette let your first letter go by land under cover to the Quarter Master at the Head of Elk, and subsequent ones by Boats to the same place, because they will meet the transports in the Bay—
TO GOVERNOR TRUMBULL.
Having been obliged to make a very considerable temporary detachment from the army, I am under the necessity of immediately calling in what recruits may be raised in the neighboring States to replace it. I have directed the superintending officers at the different places of rendezvous to do this, but I must request your Excellency, if it possibly can be done, to furnish them in whole or in part with clothing, as I do not believe our whole stock on hand consists of more than waist coats and breeches for 2000 men. If the recruits could be made tolerably comfortable they might do garrison duty which is what they will be employed in until the Spring.
I cannot avoid mentioning a matter to your Excellency which is well worth your attention and that of the Legislature. It is the shameful neglect, not to call it worse, of those persons appointed by law to muster and pass the recruits. General Parsons informs that the first which came from your State seven in number, were all totally unfit for service. He has sent them to Hartford, that the Legislature may themselves be witnesses of the imposition which has been put upon the public and which will be practised in numberless instances, while any but military men, interested in having healthy sound soldiers, are to be judges of the sufficiency of the recruit. To endeavor to remedy this evil, I have ordered a good field-officer to be stationed at each place of rendezvous, and if any man is brought in not qualified for the service, he is to refuse receiving him and to send him immediately back to the town which furnished him.
I had the honor of receiving your Excellency’s favor of the 5th by the Duke de Lauzun. The Corps of Invalids are stationed, by order of Congress, at Philadelphia and Boston, and it is not therefore in my power to send the invalids of the army to any other places except by the authority of Congress.
I have honor to be, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL ST. CLAIR.
New Windsor, 22 February, 1781,
You will, by the time this reaches you, be acquainted with the destination of the detachment under the command of the Marquis de Lafayette, which, though as large as could be afforded from the troops in this quarter, is not so competent to the certain completion of the object in view as I could wish. By some accounts from Philadelphia, I am led to hope that further assistance may be derived from the Pennsylvania line. If you find it practicable to form a battalion of eight companies of fifty rank and file each, three officers to a company, and two field-officers to a battalion, in such time as the Marquis shall think will answer his purpose, you will be pleased to do it, and put it under his command. The detachment will be but temporary. The nomination of the field-officers I leave to you.
It is possible that the battalion may be formed, but not in time to embark at the Head of Elk with the other troops. This will not be so material, provided it can be done in a short time afterwards. That time you and the Marquis will determine. If the companies cannot be completed to fifty each, I would take them at forty rather than lose the reinforcement, or even half a battalion of two hundred under the command of one field-officer rather than none. Transports can be provided and held ready at the Head of Elk, should they not embark with the other troops. The places of rendezvous of the first, second, fifth, and sixth battalions are none of them very distant from Elk, and I should imagine the detachment would be most readily and conveniently formed from them. But this I leave to your judgment. I am, &c.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL PARSONS.
New Windsor, 22 February, 1781.
Captain Walker has communicated to me some discoveries made of a plot among the Tories of Stratford and Fairfield county, of which I have directed him to give you the particulars. It seems a clue has been found to it, which, if rightly improved, will enable us to detect the affair in all its extent, and punish the principals and their accomplices. I need not observe to you, of how dangerous a tendency combinations of this nature are, nor of how much importance it is to put an effectual stop to them. Your knowledge of the country and characters of the people will enable you best to conduct the investigation; and, as you live in one of the counties where it seems to originate, you may do it with the less risk of suspicion.
I am therefore to request, you will undertake the affair in the manner you think most likely to succeed, and will set about it immediately. You may want a party of men, when you have matured the discovery, to seize the persons concerned. These you may take from the Connecticut line, as a guard to the part of the country where they will be necessary. In the present state of our force they cannot exceed a subaltern’s command. The two points most essential will be, to detect any characters of importance, who may be concerned in it, and if possible to get into our hands the register of the associators’ names. The person, who will serve you as a spy, must be assured of some generous compensation, such as will be an object to his family, and secure his fidelity. This I leave to you to manage.
I am, with great regard, &c.
TO THE CHEVALIER DESTOUCHES.
Hd-Qrs.,New Windsor, 22 February, 1781.
I received two days since, the letter which you did me the honor to write me of the 17th instant.
The desire you express of being useful to these States, evinced by the measure you have taken to rid the coasts of Virginia of very troublesome and destructive neighbors, has a title to our acknowledgments. I hope the ships you have sent will meet with immediate success; but I am rather apprehensive the enemy will be able to secure their vessels under the protection of land batteries.
The Count de Rochambeau will have communicated to you my propositions. The detachment mentioned to him has marched, and may arrive at the Head of Elk by the 5th or 6th of March, to proceed thence by water to the point of operation. The information you were pleased to give me, that you held the remainder of your fleet ready to protect your expedition in the Bay, was a motive for accelerating its motions. If you have it in your power to block up Arnold in the Bay, and make such a general disposition with your fleet, as will at the same time prevent succors going from this quarter to him, I shall flatter myself that this coöperation will effect the reduction of the corps now in Virginia, and the ships will then of course fall into your hands. I am sensible the safe return of the America may make a material difference in your arrangements; but, however this may be, I wait your determination to regulate my ulterior measures.
If the late important and agreeable intelligence of the success of Count d’Estaing is confirmed,1 we may flatter ourselves that it will at once lead to a decisive and glorious issue to the war. I am impatient to have it in my power to congratulate you on its certainty. With sentiments of perfect consideration and attachment, I have the honor to be, &c.2
TO COUNT DE ROCHAMBEAU.
New Windsor, 24 February, 1781.
I am honored with Your Excellency’s letters of the 8th, 12th and 18th since mine to you of the 19th.
The important intelligence you do me the favor to communicate comes so many ways, and with so many marks of authenticity, that we have the greatest reason to hope it is true. If so, without the interference of other powers, of which there seems to be no probability, I think we may regard it as an event decisive of a speedy and glorious termination of the war, and that his Britannic Majesty, in spite of his last speech, will be obliged to receive the law. In mine of the 19th I informed you of my ultimate determination, respecting the detachment from this army. The enclosed for the Chevalier Destouches, (which, after perusal, I beg you to seal and transmit,) communicates its march, the time of its expected arrival at its destination, and my present views.
There are rumors from New York, that Sir Henry Clinton had received orders to concentre his force at one point, but, as they come through a suspected channel, I give them no credit; yet, if the enemy have received the blow of which our West India accounts speak, this would be a natural consequence.
The flattering distinction paid to the anniversary of my birth-day is an honor for which I dare not attempt to express my gratitude. I confide in your Excellency’s sensibility to interpret my feelings for this, and for the obliging manner in which you are pleased to announce it. The measures we have been taking for the expedition to Virginia will delay some time my visit to Rhode Island. I wait to see whether Sir Henry Clinton may form any new project in consequence. When this is ascertained, and the additional precautions we are taking for security here are completed, I shall yield to my impatience for testifying personally my attachment to your Excellency and your army. I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO GOVERNOR CLINTON.
New Windsor, 24 February, 1781.
In answer to your Excellency’s letter of the 14th I wrote fully on the 19th, since which I have had the honor to receive your favor of the 20th. The reiterated request of both Houses of Assembly, to leave the two regiments of the State in the quarter where they now are, places me in a delicate and painful situation. I have already assured your Excellency, and through you the legislature, of my perfect disposition to comply with the wishes of the State, as far as I have the means, to which indeed its exertions entitle it; but, as an officer intrusted with the general interest of the confederacy, in expectation of an offensive campaign, under engagements which I shall at any rate find it difficult to fulfil, I cannot, in policy, in justice to the United States, in good faith to our allies, consent to divest myself of so considerable a part of my efficient force, as the two regiments in question. The good of the service, joined to my regard for the State, will always prompt me, as it has heretofore done, to every effort in my power to prevent or repel attacks upon it; but to give an assurance, that its troops shall remain as a cover to the western and northern frontier from an apprehended invasion, is more than I could answer, while our views extend beyond a mere defensive.
Other applications similar to that from this State have been made to me, a compliance with which would leave us without a competent garrison for the defence of West Point. A heavy detachment from this part of the army, for an important service, has obliged me to draw in all my outposts, and to call six companies of the York line from Albany, as the smallest possible number necessary for the security of West Point.
While I am compelled to deliver these sentiments, I entreat your Excellency to assure the Assembly, that it is impossible to feel more than I do for the distresses of the State, and that, as far as it can be made consistent with my general duty, no person will do more to serve it. I have the honor to be, &c.
TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE.
New Windsor, 25 February, 1781.
My Dear Marquis,
I have received your favors of the 23d from Pompton by Captn. Castaign. You may make yourself perfectly easy as to ships of the line being at New York. The Iris and the others mentioned by Hagerty are frigates. This man relates a circumstance to me, that he does not seem to have informed you of. It is, that a reinforcement of six hundred men is preparing for Arnold, and that the convoy is to be the Farges Indiaman, which is fitting up, but that she will not be ready till the end of this week. I do not give much credit to any thing he says; but, if it is so, Colonel Dayton will probably be able to gain some knowledge of it.
The return of clothing wanting for the detachment was so long coming to hand, that I had directed the clothier to despatch a parcel, which he did some days ago, and I am glad to find that the essential articles all exceed your demand. It will be too late to send a further supply of shoes from hence. You must endeavor to get them in Philadelphia. * * *
The America of sixty-four guns had got into Gardiner’s Bay, after being long out. The Bedford was remasted. This again gives Admiral Arbuthnot the superiority, and puts it out of M. Destouches’s power to give us any further assistance. * * *
I have already hinted to you the necessity of having a number of Boats for debarking the Troops at the point of destination.—This is a matter, to which the Qr. Mr. Genl. must pay particular attention to.—I therefore repeat it.—It is also of essential importance to keep fast Sailing Vessels (Pilot-Boats would be best) plying from the Hd. of Elk to Hampton Road for the purpose of corresponding with the French Commodore, or to apprize you of any danger, which may arise from a change of circumstances; as I am not without apprehensions, that the detachment from Monsr. Destouches’s squadron will be followed by a superior one from Gardiner’s bay, as soon as the destination of the former is known.—This evinces strongly the necessity of despatch, which depends upon great exertion in providing the Transports.
With the Comy.-Genl. of Issues, as I mentioned in a former letter, or his Deputy at Phila., and Colo. Pickering, you will make the necessary arrangemt. for Provisions for your Corps. If it could be done solely with the latter, the business would be in fewer hands.—As your march will be rapid to the head of Elk, leave good officers to bring up the tired, lazy, and drunken soldiers.
February 26th.1 —I do not think it very probable, that three hundred dragoons will trust themselves in the heart of Connecticut, with a superior regular corps and the force of the country to oppose them, but I have nevertheless given the intelligence to the Duke de Lauzun.2
Upon your arrival in Philadelphia, if not before, you will hear that a body of men, supposed to be a reinforcement under General Provost from Europe, had landed at Cape fear, in consequence of which the whole Pennsylvania line are ordered to the southward.3 I have therefore directed General St. Clair, instead of confining himself to a single battalion, to send as many as he can down the Chesapeake with your detachment, if circumstances should admit of your embarkation.
If the troops landed at Cape May are from Europe, I do not imagine their convoy is more than a frigate or two. Will it not be well, when matters are ripe for discovering your object, to endeavor to get the Ariel, the Trumbull, and any other public vessels of war, which may be in the Delaware, to go round to the Chesapeake? A combination of vessels, though of unequal rate, might perplex and distress the small squadron of our ally. This you can urge to the gentlemen of the marine department. If nothing unforeseen occurs, I shall set out for Rhode Island when General Duportail arrives here. I think I may expect him about the 1st of next month. I am, &c.
TO JOHN MATHEWS, IN CONGRESS.
Your favor of the 15th was not received until this morning. I am so totally unacquainted with the state of the southern prisoners, that I did not choose to enter into a negotiation with Sir Henry Clinton, on the idea of a general exchange, although liberty was given me by Congress. Nothing particular has therefore been done respecting the gentlemen, who are confined at St. Augustine; as it could not be supposed, that the enemy would consent to a partial exchange of persons of the most considerable influence in the southern States, and who, besides, are pretended to have rendered themselves obnoxious. Indeed, whenever a negotiation is entered upon, I foresee difficulties in procuring the liberation of those gentlemen, who are most of them of eminence in the civil line, as we have none of similar rank in our possession to exchange for them. However, whenever the matter is gone into, you may be assured that all possible attention shall be paid to them, not only from my own inclination to serve them, but in obedience to an act of Congress, which directs that particular regard shall be had to them in the negotiation of the exchanges of southern prisoners. The interest you take in them will be an additional consideration. I have the honor to be, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Head Quarters,New Windsor,
I had the honor of receiving last night your Excellency’s two letters of the 20th instant one of them in Congress, with their Inclosures.
The situation of the southern States is alarming; the more so, as the measure of providing a regular and permanent force was by my last advices still unattempted, where the danger was most pressing and immediate. Unless all the states enter in good earnest upon this plan, we have little to expect but their successive subjugation. Particular successes, obtained against all the chances of war, have had too much influence, to the prejudice of general and substantial principles.
In obedience to the orders of Congress, I have imparted their wish to His Excellency the Count de Rochambeau, informing him that the proposal was made on the presumption of a naval superiority. But, as this superiority has ceased by the safe return of the America, a sixty-four, which was missing and supposed to be dismasted, and by a detachment of one vessel of the line and two or three frigates into the Chesapeake Bay, it will of course be out of the power of our allies to transport the whole or any part of their troops to the succor of the southern States. Besides this obstacle, the present instructions and expectations of the French General and naval commander are opposed to an immediate change of position.
The order for the Pensylvania line to march to the Southward interferes with the conditional arrangements of the next campaign; but in the present exigency of accumulating danger in that quarter, I am entirely of opinion that these troops ought to be detached.
On the first notice of the storm and its ill effects, I intimated to the French general the possibility and importance of improving the opportunity in an attempt upon Arnold. When I received a more distinct account of the damage sustained by the British fleet, (which was a long time coming to me,) I immediately put in motion as large a part of my small force here, as I could with any prudence spare to proceed under the command of the Marquis de Lafayette to the Head of Elk, and made without delay a proposal for a coöperation in the Chesapeake Bay with the whole of the fleet of our allies and a part of their land force. Before my proposition arrived, in consequence of an application to him through the Chevalier de la Luzerne, Mr. Destouches had sent the force I have already mentioned to Chesapeake Bay. This separation, and the return of the America, prevented the execution of my plan; but the Marquis de Lafayette still continues his march to attempt whatever circumstances will permit.
It is probable Congress, before this reaches them, will have heard of the arrival of the ships in the Bay; but, if they should have met with any delay, I need not observe how necessary it will be to conceal our expectations; as the only chance of success to a merely maritime operation depends on surprise. I take the liberty to suggest, that the American frigates in the Delaware may perhaps at this juncture be usefully employed in Chesapeake or Cape Fear. The latter may be preferable, but secrecy and despatch will be essential. * * *
I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL LINCOLN.
New Windsor, 27 February, 1781.
I have received your favor of the 15th; I am glad to hear of Colonel Laurens’s departure. He wrote to me a few days before he sailed, and mentioned in the warmest manner your exertions to get the ship manned. The few Continental soldiers you spared on the occasion were well bestowed, considering the importance of Colonel Laurens’s mission.1
By a resolve of Congress of the 4th of January the Board of War seemed to have the payment of the invalids; the resolve is as follows: “That the Board of War draw no more warrants on the Paymaster except for the invalid Regiments and the regiment of artificers in the Department of the Commissary General military stores until the further order of Congress.” From this I should imagine the commanding officer at Boston should regularly transmit his muster rolls and abstract to the Board and obtain a warrant.
The late Lt. Colo. Loring’s case is referred to me by Congress and I shall take it into consideration.
Our last advices from General Greene are of the 31st of January. Lord Cornwallis, with twenty-five hundred men entirely divested of baggage, had made a push against General Morgan, and was near recovering the prisoners taken upon the 17th of January; but General Morgan got them off, and they had crossed the Yadkin on their way to Virginia. Lord Cornwallis was still advancing, and General Greene studiously avoiding an engagement, except he could draw together a greater force of militia than he had much prospect of. I am very anxious for the issue of this manœuvre, which may be productive of the most important consequences. Lieutenant-Colonel Lee with his legion had surprised Georgetown. I have not many particulars. He took Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell and several other officers prisoners, and killed a Major Irvine. A good many privates were killed; few taken. Our loss one killed, two wounded.
I have tried the efficacy of proclamations of pardon to deserters so often, and have found so little good resulting from them, that I am inclined to think desertion is rather encouraged than remedied by a frequent repetition of them. The soldier goes off, remains at home after a furlough, and looks for a proclamation as a thing of course. I am, &c.
TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE.
New Windsor, 8 o’clock, P.M.,
My Dear Marquis,
I have this moment received a letter from the Count de Rochambeau with intelligence, of which the enclosed is a copy. By this it appears, that the first squadron had returned to Newport; but that M. Destouches was fitting up the Romulus with an intent to despatch her, and I suppose the frigates, for Chesapeake, as being of better construction for the navigation of that Bay, than the ships which were before there. I have written to Count de Rochambeau and to M. Destouches, and have informed them, that you are prosecuting your march to the Head of Elk, that you will embark there and wait only for a certain knowledge that the French squadron is again in the Bay of Chesapeake, to determine you to proceed to a coöperation. I hope the squadron will have again sailed before my letter reaches Newport.
Upon your arrival at the Head of Elk, you will immediately embark the troops if the transports are ready, that not a moment’s time be lost, after you receive certain advices that our friends are below. But until that matter is ascertained beyond a doubt, you will on no account leave Elk River. You will write immediately to the Baron Steuben, and inform him that he may expect the return of the squadron, and that he is to continue every preparation and make every arrangement before directed for the prosecution of the coöperation.
With the warmest attachment, I am, &c.
P.S. You will readily perceive the propriety of keeping parts of this letter and intelligence secret.
TO JOHN PARK CUSTIS.
New Windsor, 28 February, 1781.
If you will accept a hasty letter in return for yours of last month, I will devote a few moments to this purpose, and confine myself to an interesting point or two. I do not suppose, that so young a senator as you are, little versed in political disquisitions, can yet have much influence in a populous assembly, composed of Gentln. of various talents and of different views. But it is in your power to be punctual in your attendance (and duty to the trust reposed in you exacts it of you), to hear dispassionately and determine coolly all great questions. To be disgusted at the decision of questions, because they are not consonant to our own ideas, and to withdraw ourselves from public assemblies, or to neglect our attendance at them, upon suspicion that there is a party formed, who are inimical to our cause and to the true interest of our country, is wrong, because these things may originate in a difference of opinion; but, supposing the fact is otherwise, and that our suspicions are well founded, it is the indispensable duty of every patriot to counteract them by the most steady and uniform opposition. This advice is the result of information, that, you and others being dissatisfied at the proceedings of the Virginia Assembly, and thinking your attendance of little avail (as there is always a majority for measures, which you and a minority conceive to be repugnant to the interest of your Country), are indifferent about the Assembly.
The next and I believe the last thing I shall have time to touch upon, is our military establishment; and here, if I thought the conviction of having a permanent force had not ere this flashed upon every man’s mind, I could write a volume in support of the utility of it; for no day or hour arrives unaccompd. with proof of some loss, some expense, or some misfortune consequent of the want of it. No operation of war, offensive or defensive, can be carried on for any length of time without it. No funds are adequate to the supplies of a fluctuating army, tho’ it may go under the denomination of a regular one; much less are they competent to the support of militia. In a word, for it is unnecessary to go into all the reasons the subject will admit of, we have brought a cause, which might have been happily terminated years ago by the adoption of proper measures, to the verge of ruin by temporary enlistments and a reliance on militia. The sums expended in bounties, waste of arms, consumption of military stores, Provisions, and Camp utensils, to say nothing of cloathing, which temporary soldiers are always receiving and always in want of, are too great for the resources of any nation, and prove the fallacy and danger of temporary expedients, which are no more than mushrooms, and of as short duration, but leave a sting, that is, a debt (which is continually revolving upon us) behind them.
It must be a settled plan, founded in system, order, and œconomy, that is to carry us triumphantly through the war. Supineness and indifference to the distresses and cries of a sister State, when danger is far off, and a general but momentary resort to arms when it comes to our doors, are equally impolitic and dangerous, and prove the necessity of a controlling power in Congress to regulate and direct all matters of general concern—without it the great business of war never can be well conducted, if it can be conducted at all, while the powers of Congress are only recommendatory. While one State yields obedience, and another refuses it, while a third mutilates and adopts the measure in part only, and all vary in time and manner, it is scarcely possible our affairs should prosper, or that any thing but disappointmt. can follow the best concerted plans. The willing States are almost ruined by their exertions; distrust and jealousy succeeds to it. Hence proceed neglect and ill timed compliances, one State waiting to see what another will do. This thwarts all our measures, after a heavy tho’ ineffectual expense is incurred.
Does not these things show, that in ye most striking point of view, the indispensable necessity, the great and good policy, of each State sending its ablest and best men to Congress; men, who have a perfect understanding of the constitution of their Country, of its policy and interests; and of vesting that body with competent powers? Our Independence depends upon it, our respectability and consequence in Europe depends upon it, our greatness as a nation hereafter depends upon it. The fear of giving sufficient powers to Congress, for the purposes I have mentioned, is futile, without it our Independence fails and each Assembly, under its present constitution, will be annihilated, and we must once more return to the Government of G. Britain, and be made to kiss the rod preparing for our correction. A nominal head, which at present is but another name for Congress, will no longer do. That honorable body, after hearing the interests and views of the several States fairly discussed and explained by their respective representatives, must dictate, and not merely recommend and leave it to the States afterwards to do as they please, which, as I have observed before, is in many cases to do nothing at all.
When I began this letter, I did not expect to have filled more than one side of the sheet, but I have run on insensibly. If you are at home, give my love to Nelly and the children; if at Richmond, present my complimts. to any inquiring friends. I am sincerely and affectionately, &c.
P. S. The Public Gazette will give you all the news of this quarter—our eyes are anxiously towards the South for events.
TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE.
Head-Quarters, 1 March, 1781.
My Dear Marquis,
I have just received letters from the Count de Rochambeau and the Chevalier Destouches, informing me of their intention to operate in the Chesapeake Bay with their whole fleet, and a detachment of eleven hundred French troops, grenadiers and chasseurs included. The Chevalier expected to sail the 5th of this month, so that you will arrive at the Head of Elk, before he appears in the Bay. He seems to make a difficulty, which I do not comprehend, about protecting the passage of your detachment down the Bay; but, as it is entirely without foundation, I take for granted it will cease on his arrival. It is of the greatest importance to the expedition, as well as for the honor of our arms, that you should be on the spot to coöperate.
The Count de Rochambeau requests me to send an aid-de-camp to the commanding officer in Virginia, to assemble the militia and have every thing else ready against the arrival of the fleet. You know all the necessary directions have been given; but, to gratify the Count, I am to desire you will send Colonel Gouvion without delay to the Baron De Steuben to communicate this latter intelligence, and press the preparations, directing the Baron on the arrival of the French troops to enter immediately into their views. You know the infinite value of secrecy in an expedition circumstanced like this. The Baron de Vioménil will command the French detachment. I set out in the morning for Rhode Island, where I hope to arrive before the fleet sails, to level all difficulties and be in the way to improve circumstances.
Since writing the above, I have received a letter from General Greene, by which it appears, Cornwallis, with twenty-five hundred men, was penetrating the country with great rapidity, and Greene, with a much inferior force, retiring before him, having determined to pass the Roanoke. This intelligence, and an apprehension that Arnold may make his escape before the fleet can arrive in the Bay, induce me to give you greater latitude than you had in your original instructions. You are at liberty to concert a plan with the French general and naval commander for a descent into North Carolina, to cut off the detachment of the enemy, which had ascended Cape Fear River, intercept if possible Cornwallis, and relieve General Greene and the southern States. This, however, I think ought to be a secondary object, and only attempted in case of Arnold’s retreat to New York, or in case you should think his reduction would be attended with too much delay, and that the other enterprise would be more easy, and, was from circumstances, more necessary. There should be strong reasons to induce a change of our first plan against Arnold, if he is still in Virginia. With a view to the second enterprise, you must be making your arrangements for transportation and supplies, and must endeavor to gain all the information you can about the country, which may be the scene of your operations.
Your continuing your march, after the fleet had withdrawn itself from the Bay, may excite suspicions of their intended return. You can cover your design by saying you are going to the assistance of General Greene. You will remember, that your corps is a part of this army, and will let this idea have proper weight in your determinations. I am, &c.1
TO GOVERNOR HANCOCK.
Hartford, 17 March, 1781.
It would have afforded me the greatest pleasure, had I been able to have extended my late visit to Newport as far as Boston; but the important operations, which may be expected at the southward, made it necessary for me to return as soon as possible to the North River, that I might be more immediately in the way of receiving intelligence, and communicating any which might be essential to the common interest to Count de Rochambeau. The present is a most important moment. The success of the expedition now in agitation seems to depend upon a naval superiority, and the force of the two fleets is so equal, that we must rather hope for, than entertain an assurance of victory. The attempt, however, made by our allies to dislodge the enemy in Virginia, is certainly a bold one, and, should it fail, will nevertheless entitle them to the thanks of the public.
The army under my immediate command is so much reduced by the detachment, which I have made to coöperate with the French troops in Virginia, that I have been under the necessity of calling for the recruits, which are raised in the neighboring States. Few have yet come in; and I plainly perceive, that, unless very vigorous exertions are made, the quotas of the several States will be not only short, but exceedingly late in the field. I must therefore entreat the interference of your Excellency’s countenance and authority with the persons in the different townships, whose business it may be to procure the levies, not only to send forward those to the places of rendezvous, which have been raised, but attend to completing the deficiencies where any may have happened. There is the greater necessity for a strict compliance with the number of men required by Congress, as the Pennsylvania line, which was to have composed part of the northern army, has lately been ordered to the southward. A regular and full compliance with the specific requisition of provision is a matter of equal importance with the foregoing, to which I beg leave to call your Excellency’s attention also. I have the honor to be, with most perfect respect and esteem, &c.
TO BENJAMIN HARRISON.
New Windsor, 21 March, 1781.
My Dear Sir,
Upon my return to this place last night, I met your private and friendly letter of the 25th of February. I do not delay a moment to thank you for the interesting matter contained in it, and to express surprize at that part which respects a pension for my mother.
True it is, I am but little acquainted with her present situation or distresses, if she is under any. As true it is, a year or two before I left Virginia (to make her latter days comfortable and free from care) I did, at her request, but at my own expence, purchase a commodious house, garden and Lotts (of her own choosing) in Fredericksburg, that she might be near my sister Lewis, her only daughter,—and did moreover agree to take her land and negroes at a certain yearly rent, to be fixed by Colo. Lewis and others (of her own nomination) which has been an annual expence to me ever since, as the estate never raised one half the rent I was to pay. Before I left Virginia I answered all her calls for money; and since that period have directed my steward to do the same. Whence her distresses can arise, therefore, I know not, never having received any complaint of his inattention or neglect on that head; tho’ his inability to pay my own taxes, is such I know, as to oblige me to sell negroes for this purpose—the taxes being the most unequal (I am told) in the world—some persons paying for things of equal value, four times, nay ten times, the rate that others do.—But putting these things aside, which I could not avoid mentioning in exculpation of a presumptive want of duty on my part; confident I am that she has not a child that would not divide the last sixpence to relieve her from real distress. This she has been repeatedly assured of by me; and all of us I am certain, would feel much hurt, at having our mother a pensioner, while we had the means of supporting her; but in fact she has an ample income of her own.
I lament accordingly that your letter, which conveyed the first hint of this matter, did not come to my hands sooner; but I request, in pointed terms, if the matter is now in agitation in your Assembly, that all proceedings on it may be stopped, or in case of a decision in her favor, that it may be done away and repealed at my request.
I must defer answering your public letter till the next post. This is written in much haste to go by the present mail, which is on the point of closing. The measures I had taken previous to the date of your letter (for the reduction of Arnold’s corps) were, you may be assured, every thing that was possible in my circumstances to do. If the States will not, or cannot provide me with the means, it is in vain for them to look to me for the end and accomplishment of their wishes. Bricks are not to be made without straw. As our eyes are turned to your quarter for interesting events, we have few occurrences of moment here, none pleasing. I shall only add an expression of my sincere concern for the damage and losses I hear you have sustained by that arch traitor Arnold, and my assurances of being, &c.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL HEATH.
New Windsor, 21 March, 1781.
Upon my arrival at this place yesterday, I found your letter of the 2d., enclosing the complaint of Sundry field-officers of the Massachusetts line.1 It is a painful reflection, that the best meant endeavors to promote the service is subject to, and often meets with, the most unfavorable constructions; and that the numerous embarrassments which the distressed situation of our affairs unavoidably involves us in, should be increased by ill-founded jealousies and groundless suspicions.
If the Gentn., who addressed you, on the 27th ulto. were hurt at the appointment of Colo. Jamat [Gimat] and Major Galvan, to command in the detachmt. which marched, and which I presume to be the case, a candid investigation of the cause would have evinced, in a moment the principle and that it was not a prediliction in favor of those gentn., or a want of confidence in the complainants, but the peculiar circumstances of the army that gave birth to the measure.
At the time the detachment was ordered, there was not, by the adjutant’s return (and it was called for on purpose), but two regiments if my memory serves me, in camp, that had more than one field-officer, namely Hazen’s and Webb’s. Nothing therefore but necessity could have justified my leaving a regiment without one, at a time when the new levies were ordered to join, and momently expected from every State, and when an equal and impartial distribution of them was to be made, and the whole to be provided for. Under such circumstances, no one, I am persud., who considers the good of the service and the consequences of such a want, can blame me for taking officers, who were eligible to command and unoccupied by other duties, to accompany the detachment.
These, and these only were the reasons, why no more than one field-officer was taken from the line of Massachusetts bay, and not as I have said before from a want of confidence in them or because I preferred those that did go. Thus much justice has dictated and I insert, to remove the idea which these Gentn. seem to have imbibed of an intended slight, but they must excuse me for adding, that I concieve it to be a right inherent with command to appoint particular officers for special purposes.
That part of your letter, wch. seems to respect yourself personally, needs no explanation; for I never can suppose that you deem it a slight, not to have been taken from the comd. of the most important post in America wt. 4,000 men, to head a detachment from that Post of only 800. If this is not your allusion, I am ignorant of your meaning; but shall take this occasion to observe once for all, that I am not conscious of exercising a partiality in favor of one line, one Corps, or one man, more than another; and that where appearances have been otherwise, in the eyes of those who were unacquainted with all the circumstances, I could easily have explained them; that I never did, nor never will hurt, intentionally, the feelings of any deserving officer unless I can be justified upon genl. principles and good is to result from it—but if officers will not see into the political motives by which I am sometimes governed in my appointments, and which the good of the common cause renders indispensably necessary, it is unfortunate; but cannot, because it ought not, divert me from the practice of a duty, which I think promotive of the interest of the united States, and consistent with the views of that power under which I act.
I have been thus particular because it is my wish to convince every officer over whom I have the honor to be placed of the sincerity of my disposition to make him as happy as the times and our circumstances will admit of; and that can be done consistent with the observance of that steady line of conduct I ever have and mean to pursue. I am, with esteem, &c.1
TO WILLIAM FITZHUGH.
New Windsor, 25 March, 1781.
A few days ago brought me the honor of your favor of the 7th from Marlborough. Your other letter of Jany. the 20th came duly to hand—for both I thank you; without offering an apology for suffering the latter to remain unacknowledged till this time, because I am satisfied you will attribute my silence to any cause rather than disrespect, and to none sooner than the true one—vizt., the load of business which continually presses upon me. It was with sincere concern that I heard of the injury you sustained in your property at the mouth of the Patuxent, but it is only adding another specimen to the catalogue of British clemency and wasted generosity.
The accession of Maryland to the confederation—and the relinquishment of the claim of Virginia to the Lands west of Ohio, are events which are exceedingly pleasing to me, but I am not sufficiently acquainted with the powers of civil government under the present constitutions of the several States to determine how far they are able to obtain men for the war, or for three years by coercion—nor am I enough acquainted with the abilities of them to declare what sums they ought to have given to soldiers under this description, in preference to a draft of men for a shorter term; this, however, I am decided in, that the latter is the most expensive, & least effectual mode that ever was devised to carry on a war which is like to become a war of finance—and that no funds within our reach can support it long. I speak upon the best ground when I assert this, because no day nor hour arrives without bringing with it some evidence in support of the truth of the observation. To this cause also the prolongation of the war, the wretched state of our finances, and every capital misfortune that has befallen us may be traced.
I as little scruple to add, that unless the powers of Congress are made competent to all the purposes of war we are doing no more than wasting our time & spending our treasure to very little purpose, for it is impossible to apply the strength and resources of this country while one State complys with, another rejects, and the majority of them change or mutilate the requisitions of that body—hence the willing States are capitally injured, if not ruined—hence proceed distrust, jealousy, & dissatisfaction, and the impossibility of either projecting or executing (with certainty) any plan whatsoever—hence proceed all those delays, which to people at a distance, and unacquainted with circumstances, are altogether unaccountable—and hence it is we incur useless expence, because we do not bring our force, and means, into operation at the same time, some being exhausted, before others are obtained. * * *
We wait with much solicitude advices from the southern army; our last accounts from that quarter were less gloomy than the former, but not less equivocal & distressing. I have heard nothing from Genl. Greene since the 28th of Feb’y, nor of him (with precision) since the 2d Inst. Matters were so critically circumstanced at that time as to add pain to impatience. Equally ignorant, and equally anxious am I, with respect to the French fleet under the command of the Chevr. Destouches—no accounts of whom have I received (but vague ones through the channel of Rivington’s Paper) since he left Newport. At York Town in Virginia there was no intelligence of him on the 15th.
Private. It is to be lamented, greatly lamented, that the French commanders at Newport did not adopt the measure of sending the Fleet and a detachm’t of their land force to Chesapeake bay when I first proposed it to them (in the moment I received the first cert’n information of the damage done to the British at Gardiner’s bay). Had the expedition been undertaken at that time, nothing could have saved Arnold’s corps (during the weakened state of the British ships) from destruction. Instead of this, a small detachment only was sent from the fleet, which, as I foretold, would have returned as they went, had it not been for the accidental meeting of the Romulus, and the vessels under her convoy. But as there is no rectifying past errors—and as it is our true policy to stand well with friends on whom we so much depend, I relate this in confidence.1
Mrs. Washington makes a tender of her compliments to yourself and Mrs. Fitzhugh to which please to add those of, Dear Sir, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL ARMSTRONG.
New Windsor, 26 March, 1781.
* * * I received with much pleasure the account of your recovered health, and sincerely wish it may be of long continuance and much usefulness to yourself and country.
We ought not to look back, unless it is to derive useful lessons from past errors, and for the purpose of profiting by dear bought experience. To enveigh against things that are past and irremediable, is unpleasing; but to steer clear of the shelves and rocks we have struck upon, is the part of wisdom, equally as incumbent on political as other men, who have their own little bark, or that of others, to navigate through the intricate paths of life, or the trackless ocean, to the haven of security and rest.
Our affairs are brought to an awful crisis, that the hand of Providence, I trust, may be more conspicuous in our deliverance. The many remarkable interpositions of the divine government, in the hours of our deepest distress and darkness, have been too luminous to suffer me to doubt the happy issue of the present contest1 ; but the period for its accomplishment may be too far distant for a person of my years, whose morning and evening hours, and every moment (unoccupied by business), pants for retirement, and for those domestic and rural enjoyments, which in my estimation far surpass the highest pageantry of this world. * * *
I am sorry to hear, that the recruiting business in your State is clogged with so many embarrassments. It is perhaps the greatest of the great evils attending this contest, that States as well as individuals had rather wish well, than act well; had rather see a thing done, than do it, or contribute their just proportion to the doing it. This conduct is not only injurious to the common cause, but in the end most expensive to themselves; besides the distrusts and jealousies, which are sown by such conduct. To expect brick without straw is idle, and yet I am called upon, with as much facility to furnish men and means for every service and every want, as if every iota required of the States had been furnished, and the whole was at my disposal; when the fact is, I am scarcely able to provide a garrison for West Point, or to feed the men that are there. This, and ten thousand reasons, which I could assign, prove the necessity of something more than recommendatory powers in Congress. If that body is not vested with a controuling power in matters of common concern, and for the great purposes of war, I do not scruple to give it decidedly as my opinion, that it will be impossible to prosecute it to any good effect. Some States are capitally injured, if not ruined, by their own exertions and the neglects of others; while by these irregularities the strength and resources of the country never are, nor can be, employed to advantage. But I have exceeded the bounds of a common letter, and shall trespass no longer, than while I can assure you, that I am, with every sentiment of esteem, regard, and affection, &c.
TO BENJAMIN HARRISON.1
Head Quarters,New Windsor,
On my return from Newport, I found your favor of the 16th of February with its inclosures, at Head Quarters. I regret exceedingly that I could not have the pleasure of seeing you, not only from personal motives, but because I could have entered upon the subject of your mission in a much more free and full manner than is proper to be committed to paper.
I very early saw the difficulties and dangers to which the southern States would be exposed for want of resources of cloathing, arms and ammunition, and recommended magazines to be established, as ample as their circumstances would admit. It is true they are not so full of men as the northern States, but they ought for that reason to have been more assiduous in raising a permanent force, to have been always ready, because they cannot draw a head of men together as suddenly as their exigences may require. That policy has unhappily not been pursued, either here or there, and we are now suffering from the remnant of a British army what they could not in the beginning accomplish with their forces at the highest.
As your requisitions go to men, arms, ammunition and cloathing, I shall give you a short detail of our situation and prospects, as to the first, and of our supplies and expectations as to the three last.
Men. By the expiration of the times of service of the old troops, by the discharge of the levies engaged for the campaign only, and by the unfortunate dissolution of the Pennsylvanian line, I was left previous to the march of the detachment under the command of the Marquis de la Fayette, with a garrison barely sufficient for the security of West Point, and two regiments in Jersey to support the communication between the Delaware and North River. The York troops I had been obliged to send up for the security of the frontiers of that State. Weak, however, as we were, I determined to attempt the dislodgment of Arnold in conjunction with the French fleet and army, and made the detachment to which I have alluded.
In my late tour to the eastward, I found the accounts I had received of the progress of recruiting in those States, had been much exaggerated; and I fear we shall, in the end, be obliged again to take a great proportion of their quotas in levies for the campaign, instead of soldiers for three years or for the war. The regiments of New York having been reduced to two, they have but few infantry to raise. Jersey depends upon voluntary enlistments upon a contracted bounty, and I cannot therefore promise myself much success from the mode. The Pennsylvania line you know is ordered to compose part of the southern army. General Wayne is so sanguine as to suppose he will soon be able to move on with 1000 or 1200 men, but I fancy he rather overrates the matter.
You will readily perceive, from the foregoing state, that there is little probability of adding to the force already ordered to the southward. For should the battalions from New Hampshire to New Jersey inclusive be compleated (a thing not to be expected) we shall, after the necessary detachments for the frontiers and other purposes are made, have an army barely sufficient to keep the enemy in check at New York. Except this is done, they will have nothing to hinder them from throwing further reinforcements to the southward, and to be obliged to follow by land every detachment of their army, which they always make by sea, will only end in a pointless dissipation of what may now be called the northern army. You may be assured that the most powerful diversion that can be made in favor of the southern States, will be a respectable force in the neighborhood of New York. I have hitherto been speaking of our own resources. Should a reinforcement arrive to the French fleet and army, the face of matters may be entirely changed.
Arms. I do not find that we can, at any rate, have more than 2000 stand of arms to spare, perhaps not so many; for should the battalions which are to compose this army be compleat, or nearly so, they will take all that are in repair or repairable. The 2000 stand came in the Alliance from France, and I keep them apart for an emergency.
Ammunition. Our stock of ammunition, though competent to the defensive is, by a late estimate of the commanding officer of artillery, vastly short of an offensive operation of any consequence. Should circumstances put it in our power to attempt such an one, we must depend upon the private magazines of the States, and upon our allies. On the contrary should the defensive plan be determined upon, what ammunition can be spared will be undoubtedly sent to the southward.
Cloathing. Of cloathing we are in a manner exhausted. We have not enough for the few recruits which may be expected, and except that which has been so long talked of and looked for from France should arrive, the troops must next winter go naked, unless their States can supply them.
From the foregoing representation you will perceive that the proportion of the Continental army, already allotted to southern service is as much as, from present appearances can be spared for that purpose, and that a supply of arms, ammunition, or cloathing of any consequence, must depend in a great measure upon future purchases or importation.
Nothing which is within the compass of my power shall be wanting to give support to the southern States; but you may readily conceive how irksome a thing it must be to me to be called upon for assistance, when I have not the means of affording it. I am, &c.1
TO THE BOARD OF WAR.
Head Quarters,New Windsor,
I have been honored with your favor of the 22d instant inclosing the heads of two plans for the incorporation of the departments of quartermaster general and Commissaries General of Purchases and Issues and that of the Commissary of Prisoners in some degree, the whole to be under the direction of the Quarter Master General. If there is an absolute necessity for such a reform, I do not hesitate in pronouncing in favor of the second plan, because, by it the three great departments are united under one common head; whereas by the first, the commissariate in some measure exists, which would lead to confusion and intricacy in transacting the business.
The Board are very justly pleased to observe that “all changes are not reformations, and that great caution should be used in making them, especially atthe opening of a Campaign.” Col. Pickering has, I should suppose, informed himself of the sentiments of his deputies upon the plan he has proposed, otherwise, should it be adopted, it will be in their power to fix terms for themselves, or confusion would immediately ensue by the resignation of all those who would not undertake an additional trouble of office without an addition of salary. The effect of which at the present advanced season may easily be conceived. Œconomy is undoubtedly the sole motive and end of the plan proposed. Now if that cannot be introduced, and in a very extensive way too, it will be well to consider whether we had not best begin by the uniting, as formerly, the departments of purchasing and issuing commissary under one set of officers; for as the Board have again observed, double sets of officers have been found productive of expence, but little or no check upon each other. By the second plan, an officer under the character of superintendent, who will be something similar in duty to the commissary of purchases at present, is instituted. He must be allowed, it is presumed, a certain number of clerks or assistants. The Quarter Master General is also to be allowed a suitable number of clerks to enable him to transact the additional load of business thrown upon him. Now before a determination is formed, let a calculation be made of the difference of expence between a Commissary General of Purchases, with his assistants, &c., both at fixed posts and with the army, and a superintendent of provisions, with his clerks and assistants, and the additional number of clerks necessary to the Quartermaster General, should he undertake the management of all the departments. If the saving to the public should not appear very considerable, by the abolition of the commissariate altogether, will it be worth while to risque the mischiefs, which may arise from an attempt unknown in other services? or will it be worth while to add for a trifle, to the load of business which, in the embarrassed state of our affairs, presses upon the Quarter Master? For although, as he observes, he already has the care and trouble of drawing from fixed magazines all the provision deposited at them, yet he would find, upon experiment, a thousand little perplexities incident to the Commissary’s department, of which, perhaps, he is not aware. While I applaud the motives on which he offers to undertake the business, I cannot help expressing my fears that he is about to undertake too much: for I very well know, that when our public affairs were in better train, the Quartermaster General found it sufficiently difficult to execute the civil and military duties of his office, and an active campaign will give him much more of the latter than he has yet experienced, or may have an idea of from the inactivity of the last. * * *
TO MAJOR-GENERAL LINCOLN.
New Windsor, 4 April, 1781.
Every day convinces me, that the enemy are determined to bend their force against the southern States, and that we must support them powerfully from this quarter, or they will be lost. Except such support is given in time, it will be ineffectual. The enemy will not only have established themselves in posts, but in the affections of many of the people. The Pennsylvania line is already ordered to the southern army, and will march thither in detachment, as it is reassembled and recruited. I should not hesitate immediately to order a further reinforcement, could I do it with prudence; but we are so extremely weak, (not more than four hundred recruits from all the States having yet come in, about one hundred of which from Massachusetts,) that, although the enemy have lately sent off another detachment of at least fifteen hundred men under the command of General Phillips, I do not think myself justifiable in doing it under present circumstances. But, that the measure may be adopted as early as possible, I must desire and call upon you, in the most positive manner to send forward every man from Massachusetts that you can collect. The urgency of the times requires that every exertion should be made to check the enemy in the rapidity of their progress to the southward.
You will have heard of the disappointment in the expedition against Arnold. General Greene has had a general engagement with Lord Cornwallis,1 from which, though he suffered a defeat, he might ultimately derive advantages, had his Lordship no prospect of fresh succors. But I have scarcely a doubt, that the detachment under General Phillips is intended for that quarter. Should they form a junction, and I see nothing to hinder it, General Greene’s present force will not enable him to give any effectual opposition. He had two hundred and ninety out of his small body of Continental troops killed, wounded, and missing in the late action.1 You very well know, that the collecting militia depends entirely upon the prospects of the day. If favorable, they throng in to you; if not, they will not move.
I perceive that you have, by a late public order, detained all the Massachusetts officers, who were then in the State; I suppose, that they might assist in bringing forward the levies. You will keep only as many as are absolutely necessary for that purpose, and send the others to their regiments. They are exceedingly wanted, there being scarcely a sufficient number in camp for ordinary duties. I am, &c.
TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE.
New Windsor, 6 April, 1781.
My Dear Marquis,
Since my letter to you of yesterday, I have attentively considered of what vast importance it will be to reinforce General Greene as speedily as possible; more especially as there can be little doubt, but the detachment under General Phillips, if not part of that now under the command of General Arnold, will ultimately join or in some degree coöperate with Lord Cornwallis. I have communicated to the general officers, at present with the army, my sentiments on the subject; and they are unanimously of opinion, that the detachment under your command should proceed and join the southern army. Your being already three hundred miles advanced, which is nearly half way, is the reason which operates against any which can be offered in favor of marching that detachment back and forming another—a plan which I once had in my own mind, as it was hastily formed and neither officers or men might have imagined they were to leave their corps for so great a length of time, but, as matters are circumstanced, private inconveniences must give way to the public good and you will therefore, immediately upon the receipt of this, turn the detachment to the southward. Inform General Greene, that you are upon your march to join him, and take his direction as to your route, when you begin to approach him. Previous to that, you will be guided by your own judgment, and by the roads on which you will be most likely to find subsistence for the troops and horses. It will be well to advise Governor Jefferson of your intended march through the State of Virginia; or perhaps it might answer a good purpose, were you to go forward to Richmond yourself, after putting the troops in motion and having made some necessary arrangements for their progress.
You will now take the light artillery and smallest mortars, with their stores and the musket cartridges, with you. But let these follow under a proper escort, rather than impede the march of the detachment, which ought to move as expeditiously as possible without injury to them. The heavy artillery and stores you will leave at some proper and safe place, if it cannot be conveniently transported to Christien River, from whence it will be easily got to Philadelphia. You may leave it to the option of Lieutenant-Colonel Stevens to proceed or not, as he may think proper. His family are in peculiar circumstances, and he left it in the expectation of being absent but a short time. Should there be other officers under similar circumstances, you may make them the same offers, and they shall be relieved.
I will now mention to you in confidence the reason, which operated with me more than almost any other, in favor of recalling your detachment and forming another. It was the uneasiness occasioned among the field-officers of those regiments which furnished the men, upon the appointment of Colonel Gimat and Major Galvan to commands in the corps. They presented a memorial to me upon the subject, and I gave them the true reason, which was, that the regiments in their lines were so extremely thin of field-officers of their own, that necessity, if nothing else, dictated the measure. I have heard nothing of the discontent lately; but, should I find it revive again, upon its being known that the corps is to continue together, I shall be obliged, for peace’ sake, to relieve those two gentlemen by officers properly belonging to the lines from which the regiments are formed. You will therefore prepare them for such an event, and tell them candidly the reasons, founded principally upon their having already had their tour in the infantry. Should they be relieved, they will probably incline to continue with the southern army. There is as much or more probability of their finding employ there, than with us, as we shall from all appearances remain inactive.
I am, my dear Marquis, &c.
TO COUNT ROCHAMBEAU.
Head Quarters,New Windsor,
I have been honored with your Excellency’s favor of the 31st ulto. Your remarks upon the uncertainty of operations which depend upon a combination of Land and Sea forces, except there is a decisive superiority over the enemy as to the latter, are judicious, and consonant to the Ideas which I had ever entertained upon the subject.
Upon maturely considering the offer which your Excellency has been pleased to make of marching all your force to this place, except 1200 Men to be aided by 3000 Militia for the security of the Fleet, I am of opinion that it ought under present circumstances and appearances to be deferred, as it would be putting you perhaps to an unnecessary trouble, and would, besides the expences incident to calling out so large a body of Militia tend to injure the completion of the Continental Battalions by recruits, as the Militia service is preferred by the peasantry to the Continental, the pay being greater the duty less—and the discipline more relaxed. My reasons for waving your Excellency’s offer, at the present time are briefly as follow. I do not look upon the French troops essentially necessary at this place untill an operation against New York shall have been determined upon, or untill we shall have been obliged to make so large detachments to the Southward that we shall have occasion for them to assist in securing the post of West point and its dependencies—the communication from the Delaware to the North River and affording cover to the Country within reach of the enemy’s marauding parties. Altho’ I have, upon finding that the enemy have sent a reinforcement of about 1500 to the Southward, ordered the Marquis de la Fayette to proceed with the detachment under his command and join General Greene, I hope I shall be able, with my remaining force and the Recruits which now begin to come in, to effect the latter purposes more especially as I can upon an emergency, suddenly call in a respectable Body of Militia from the Adjacent Country. It does not appear to me that an enterprise so weighty as that against New York can be decided upon untill we hear what reinforcements of Men and Ships may be expected from Europe.—I therefore think that the troops under your Excellency’s command may remain in their present position untill the arrival of the Viscount de Rochambeau, which I hope may be soon, or some other intelligence from Europe, or till the situation of our Southn. Affairs become yet more critical.—But as it may have an effect upon the fears of the enemy in New York, and hinder them from making further detachments to the Southward I beg your Excellency to circulate a report that you are soon to join this Army, and to make some demonstrations of preparing for a march.
Indeed the approaching season—if it should not be our unhappy lot to spend another inactive campaign—will well warrant every necessary preparation for the field be the theatre of Action where it may; which will not only countenance the report but actually facilitate the measure if events should render it necessary to carry it into execution which is by no means improbable. * * *
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Head Quarters,New Windsor,
The enclosed return, made up to the first of the month, will show the number of recruits, which have joined this part of the Continental army since the formation of it upon the new establishment. My requests to the executives of the several States have been earnest, and my orders to the officers in them have been pointed and positive, to send forward the recruits as fast as possible. What to expect, or rather to apprehend, from these delays, Congress can more easily conceive than I can describe. Some States, I am told, despairing of getting their quotas for the war, or three years, are resorting to the old expedient of temporary enlistments, while impediments of another kind withhold the recruits from the army in others.
The bare relation of these facts, without combining other circumstances of equal magnitude and uncertainty, or adding to them the difficulties with which we are surrounded for want of money, will convince Congress of the impracticability of my fixing at this time on any definitive plan of campaign, and of my inability to carry into effect those, which have heretofore been the objects of contemplation. They will readily see, that our future operations depend upon contingencies, and that our determinations must be the result of the moment, dependent upon circumstances.
In this view of matters here, the progress of the enemy under Lord Cornwallis, and in consideration of the reinforcement which has lately gone to him, I have judged it expedient to order the Marquis de Lafayette to proceed with his detachment to the southern army, and put himself under the orders of Major-General Greene. The greatest objection I had to the measure, circumstanced as things now are, was, that the detachment was not formed for the campaign, or for so distant a service as that on which they are now ordered; consequently neither officers nor men were prepared for it; but the urgent calls for succor to the southern States, the proximity of this corps to them, the expedition with which it can join the southern army, and the public expense that will be saved by its advance, have overcome all less considerations in deciding upon it. I wish the march of the Pennsylvania troops could be facilitated, and that Moylan’s cavalry could be recruited, equipped, and marched without delay; for every judicious officer I have conversed with from the southward, and all the representations I received from thence, confirm me in the opinion, that great advantages are to be derived from a superior cavalry. Without magazines, and with an interrupted communication, I do not see how Lord Cornwallis could have subsisted his army, had we outnumbered him in horse.
I think it my duty to inform Congress, that there is great dissatisfaction at this time in the York line for want of pay. Near sixteen months’, I am told, is due to it. If it were practicable to give these and the Jersey troops, if they are in the same predicament, a small portion of their pay, it might stop desertions, which are frequent, and avert greater evils, which are otherwise to be apprehended. The four eastern States have given a temporary relief to their troops, which makes the case of the others, those of York particularly, appear more distressing and grievous to them. I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO COLONEL JOHN LAURENS, AT PARIS.
New Windsor, 9 April, 1781.
My Dear Laurens,
Colo. Armand, who was charged with the delivery of many letters to you from the Marquis de Lafayette, imparting to his friends and the ministry of France your mission, unfortunately arrived at Boston after you had Sailed. By him I gave you an acct. of the revolt of part of the Jersey Troops, Arnold’s Expedition to Virginia, Leslie’s arrival at Charles Town, and such other matters as occurred after your departure.
Since that period several interesting events have happened; some favorable, others adverse. Among the first may be reckoned Morgan’s brilliant action with Tarleton; among the latter, the advantages gained by Lord Cornwallis over General Greene. The official accts. of these I enclose to you. Cornwallis, after the defeat of Tarleton, destroyed his wagons, and made a violent effort to recover his prisoners, but, failing therein moved equally light and rapidly against General Greene, who, (though he had formed a junction with Morgan,) was obliged to retreat before him into Virginia. Whether from despair of recovering his prisoners, of bringing Greene to a general action, or because he conceived his own situation critical, I do not take upon me to determine; but the fact is, that here commenced Cornwallis’ retrograde movements, and Greene’s advance from the Roanoke to the place of action.
On the first notice of the storm, which happened on the 22d of Jany., and of its effects, I intimated to the French Genl. the possibility and importance of improving the opportunity in an attempt upon Arnold. When I received a more certn. acct. of the total loss of the Culloden, and the dismasting of the Bedford, two 74-gun ships belonging to the British Fleet at Gardiner’s Bay, I immediately put in motion, under the comd. of ye Marqs. de Lafayette, as large a part of my small force here, as I could with prudence detach,1 to proceed to the Head of Elk, and made with all expedition, a proposal to the Count de Rochambeau and the Chevr. Destouches for a coöperation in Virginia with the whole of the fleet of our allies and a part of their land force. Before my proposition arrived, in consequence of an application to him from Philadelphia, the Chevr. Destouches had sent a ship of the line and two or three frigates to Chesapeake Bay, which not only retarded the plan I had proposed (by awaiting their return), but ultimately defeated the project; as the enemy in the mean time remasted the Bedford with those taken out of the Culloden, and, following the French fleet, arrived off the Capes of Virginia before it; where a naval combat, glorious for the French, who were inferior in ships and guns, but unprofitable for us, who were disappointed of our object, was the issue.
The failure of this expedition, which was most flattering in the commencement, is much to be regretted; because a successful blow in that quarter would, in all probability, have given a decisive turn to our affairs in all the Southern States; because it has been attended with considerable expense on our part, and much inconvenience to the State of Virginia, by the assembling of its militia; because the world are disappointed at not seeing Arnold in Gibbets; and, above all,because we stood in need of something to keep us afloat, till the result of your mission is known; for, be assured, my dear Laurens, that day does not follow night more certainly, than it brings with it some additional proof of the impracticability of carrying on the war without the aids you were directed to solicit. As an honest and candid man, as a man whose all depends on the final and happy termination of the present contest, I assert this, while I give it decisively as my opinion, that, without a foreign loan, our present force, (which is but the remnant of an army,) cannot be kept together this campaign, much less will it be increased and in readiness for another.
The observations contained in my letter to you of the 15th of January last are verified every moment; and, if France delays a timely and powerful aid in this critical posture of our affairs, it will avail us nothing, should she attempt it hereafter. We are at this hour suspended in the Balle.; not from choice, but from hard and absolute necessity; for you may rely on it as a fact, that we cannot transport the provisions from the States in which they are assessed to the army, because we cannot pay the teamsters, who will no longer work for certificates. It is equally certain, that our Troops are approaching fast to nakedness, and that we have nothing to cloathe them with; that our Hospitals are without medicines and our sick without nutriment except such as well men eat; That all our public works are at a stand, and the artificers disbanding. But why need I run into the detail, when it may be declared in a word, that we are at the end of our tether, and that now or never our deliverancemust come. While, alas, how easy would it be to retort the enemy’s own game upon them, if it could be made to comport with the genl. plan of the war to keep a superior Fleet always in these Seas, and France would put us in a conditn. to be active by advancing us money. The ruin of the enemy’s schemes would then be certain; the bold game they are now playing would be the mean to effect it; for they would be reduced to the necessity of concentring their force at capital points, thereby giving up all the advantages they have gained in the Southern States, or be vulnerable everywhere.
Such of the Pensylvania line, as had reassembled and were recruited, say about 1,000, were ordered, the middle of Feby., to join the Southern army; and since the disappointment of our enterprise against Arnold, I have directed the detachment under the comd. of the Marqs. de Lafayette to proceed thither; but how either can march, without money or credit, is more than I can tell. With every wish for your success, and a safe and speedy return, and with every sentiment of esteem and affection, I am, dear Sir, &c. * * *
TO COUNT DE ROCHAMBEAU.
Head Quarters,New Windsor,
I had the pleasure of receiving your Excellency’s letter of the 6th instant only two hours ago. We are greatly indebted to the Chevalier Destouches for the disposition he shows to undertake the expedition to Penobscot, and to you for your readiness to furnish a detachment of troops for the same purpose. The object is certainly worth attention, and if it can be effected will be very agreeable to the States, particularly to those of the East. M. Destouches can best judge, from the situation of the enemy’s fleet, how far it may be attempted with prudence; and your Excellency, from the information you have recently received, what number of troops will be sufficient for the enterprise. I am persuaded it will be calculated how far it is probable the enemy may follow with a part of their fleet; whether the post can be carried by a coup de main, or may require so much time as to make it likely the operation will be interrupted before its conclusion, in case of a superior squadron being sent by the enemy; what possibility there is of protection, or a safe retreat for the ships, and even for the land force, through an unsettled country. All these are points too important not to have been well weighed, and your conversations with the Massachusetts deputies will have been able to enlighten you upon them.
The confidence I have in your judgment assures to you the concurrence of my sentiments, in whatever you may do on the occasion. I will only take the liberty to remark two things; one, that it appears to me frigates, without any ships of the line, will answer the purpose as well as with them, and less will be risked by dividing the body of the fleet. Frigates, (including the forty-fours,) will afford a safe escort to the troops against any thing now in those seas, and with respect to a detachment from the enemy’s fleet, it would always be proportioned to the force we should send, and if we have two sixty-fours, they would even be an object for their whole fleet. The other observation I would make is that as despatch is essential to success, it will in my opinion be advisable not to depend on any coöperation of the militia, but to send at once such a force from your army, as you deem completely adequate to a speedy reduction of the post.
The country in the neighborhood of Penobscot is too thinly inhabited to afford any resource of militia there; and to assemble and convey them from remote places would announce your design, retard your operations, and give leisure to the enemy to counteract you. Indeed, I would recommend, for the sake of secrecy, to conceal your determination from the State itself. These hints you will be pleased to make use of only so far as they appear to be well founded. I have the honor to be, &c.1
P. S. I enclose a piece of intelligence just received from the President of Congress.
TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE.
Head Quarters,New Windsor,
My Dear Marquis,
Your favor dated at Elk the 8th instant reached me at ten o’clock last evening. While I give you credit for the manœuvre by which you removed the British ships from before Annapolis, I am sorry, as matters are circumstanced, that you have put yourself so much further from the point, which now of necessity becomes the object of your destination. Whether General Phillips remains in Virginia or goes further southward, he must be opposed by a force more substantial than militia alone; and you will for that reason immediately open a communication with General Greene, inform him of the numbers, situation, and probable views of the enemy in Virginia, and take his directions as to marching forward to join him, or remaining there to keep a watch upon the motions of Phillips, should he have formed a junction with Arnold at Portsmouth.
Every difficulty, so far as respects the wants of the officers and men, and the uneasinesses, which might arise upon their being ordered upon a more distant service than they expected, were foreseen, and would have been removed by recalling the detachment and forming another, had not the reasons of a public nature, which were mentioned in my letter of the 6th, outweighed all private considerations.
You must endeavor to get shoes which will be essentially necessary before you can move from Philadelphia; and, if you will cause a return to be made of such articles, as will probably be wanting in the course of the campaign, I will endeavor to forward them from hence, with a proportion of any stores, which may have been sent on by the States for their troops. If the officers will write back to their friends here for any additional baggage, of which they may stand in need, it shall be forwarded under careful conductors. The difficulties, which you will experience on the score of provision and transportation, would have been common to any other body of troops. They will I know be great, but I depend much upon your assiduity and activity.
Had I have had the most distant prospect of such an operation as you speak of, I should have looked upon your detachment as essential to the undertaking; but I can assure you, without entering into a detail of reasons, which I cannot commit to paper, that I have not at present an idea of being able to effect such a matter.1 This had very considerable weight in the determination of the general officers and myself; for we would have been very happy in an opportunity of succoring the southern states by a diversion, could it have been attempted with any tolerable hope of success.
The small remains of the Jersey line seem necessary to form a head, to which the recruits, if any are obtained, may unite themselves. That line stands next for detachment, and therefore it is more than probable that it may soon become necessary to send the whole to the southward. But the reason, which I have just mentioned, operates in favor of keeping the remainder as long as possible. I shall be glad to hear from you, the time of your setting out from Elk, your prospects of getting on and the temper of the troops; and, above all, I shall ever be happy in knowing that you are well, and that every thing contributes to your happiness and satisfaction, being very truly and sincerely, my dear Marquis, &c.
P. S. You seem aware of the danger of attempting a passage down the Chesapeak by water. I will add my opinion that it is not on any account to be attempted.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
New Windsor, 16 April, 1781.
Previous to the receipt of your letter,1 I had directed the commissary of prisoners to renew a proposal, which was some time since made to the enemy, for exchanging General Burgoyne, and a balance of private prisoners due to us, for the residue of our officers on Long Island, and as many of the southern officers as would make up the difference. My motives for this proposal were these. General Burgoyne is said to be in ill health; his death would deprive us in exchanges of the value of one thousand and forty private men, or officers equivalent, according to the tariff which has been settled. I thought it advisable not to risk so considerable a loss, when his exchange would give relief to a number of our officers in captivity, and disembarrass the public of the inconvenience of maintaining them there.
The moment I received your letter, I wrote to Mr. Skinner, countermanding his instructions. I believe the countermand will arrive before he has done any thing in the matter; but if it does not, I am persuaded the enemy will again reject the proposal. As soon as I hear from him, if things are situated as I expect, I will execute immediately the order for the recall of General Burgoyne. To the best of my recollection, all the officers in Europe on parole have been exchanged. I have the honor to be, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL GREENE.
New Windsor, 18 April, 1781.
My Dear Sir,
Your private letter of the 18th ulto. came safe to hand.1 Altho’ the honors of the field did not fall to your lot, I am convinced you deserved them. The chances of war are various, and the best concerted measures, and the most flattering prospects, may and often do deceive us; especially while we are in the power of militia. The motives wch. induced you to seek an action with Lord Cornwallis, are supportable upon the best military principles; and the consequences, if you can prevent the dissipation of your Troops, will no doubt be fortunate. Every support, that it is in my power to give you from this army, shall chearfully be afforded; But if I part with any more Troops, I must accompany them, or have none to command, as there is not at this moment more than a garrison for West Point, nor can I tell when there will be.
I am much pleased to find by your letter, that the State of Virginia exerts itself to your satisfaction. My public and private letters strongly inculcate the necessity of this; and I have again urged Congress to use every possible mean in their power to facilitate the march of the Pensylvania line; as also to recruit, equip, and forward Moylan’s Dragoons to you with despatch.
I should be very sorry on any occasion to hurt the feelings of the Baron de Steuben, whom I esteem as a very valuable officer. But in the instance you have mentioned, there is no cause of complaint; for, if he will advert to his own letters to me, he will find that there was a great probability of his having marched with a detachment to reinforce you. Besides which there was a necessity for sending a Genl. officer with the detachment from hence, and political considerations, as it was to be a combined operation (depending upon critical circumstances) with a French land and sea force, pointed to the Marquis. Add to this I know that the French Troops were to be commanded by an officer of senior rank to either the Baron or Marquis. These are the facts, the knowledge of which must, I am persuaded, satisfy the Baron.
I am truly sensible of the merit and fortitude of the veteran bands under your Command, and wish ye sentiments I entertain of their worth could be communicated with the warmth I feel them. It was my full intention to have requested you to thank Morgan and the gallant Troops under his commd. for their brilliant victory; but the hurry, in which my letters are too often written, occasioned the omission at the time I acknowledged the official account of that action.
Your conjecture respecting the cause of the P.—M—y1 has more substantial ground for its support, than the letter of the m. of C.; and I am mistaken if the licentious conduct of that line was not more the effect of an overcharge of spirits, on the 1st of January, than of premeditated design.
I have the pleasure to tell you, that, as far as I am acquainted with the opinion of Congress with respect to your conduct, it is much in your favor. That this is the sentiment of all the Southern delegates I have great reason to believe, because I have it declared to me in explicit terms by some of them. Since writing the above I have recd. a letter from Mr. Custis, dated the 29th ulto., in which are these words. “Genl. Greene has by his conduct gained universal esteem, and possesses in the fullest degree the confidence of all ranks of people.” He had then just returned from the Assembly at Richmond. I hope the disorder, of which you complained, in your letter of the 18th was no other than the effect of over fatigue, and that you are now perfectly well. That success equal to your merits and wishes may attend you, is the ardent desire of, dear Sir, &c.
P. S. Mrs. Washington and the rest of the family present their best wishes to you, and I have the pleasure to tell you that Mrs. Greene and your children were well lately. Your letters to her under cover to me are regularly forwarded by the Post.
TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE.
Head-Quarters, 21 April, 1781.
My Dear Marquis,
Though the situation of southern affairs would not permit me to recall your corps to this army, yet it was with great reluctance I could resolve upon seeing you separated from head-quarters. My friendship for you makes me desirous of having you near me, and there will occur frequent occasions in coöperative measures in which it would be of the greatest utility I should have it in my power to consult you. These motives would have induced me to propose to you to return personally to head-quarters, had I not believed you would not have chosen to quit your corps, and had I not foreseen a difficulty in giving you a command in the remaining troops. A select corps you could not have, and there are so many major-generals, who conceive themselves in a manner wedded to the different lines, and who are to be provided for, that it would not be easy at present to accommodate matters to your having a command in the line. But this difficulty might be overcome, and I cannot forbear, late as it is, leaving it at your option to proceed with your corps or return personally to head-quarters. If the last should be your choice, you will give orders to the officer you leave in command to march with all the necessary precaution, and take the orders of the Baron de Steuben. You will at the same time write to the Baron, communicating to him your instructions, and to General Greene, informing him of your return.
If you resolve to proceed forward, I shall have one consolation, which is, that from the present aspect of things it is perhaps most probable the weight of the war this campaign will be in the southern States, and it will become my duty to go there in person, where I shall have the pleasure of seeing you again. Of this I would not have you to say any thing. * * *
TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE.
New Windsor, 22 April, 1781.
My Dear Marquis:
Since writing the enclosed your several letters (acknowledged in my public one of this date) are come to hand—all of them except that of the 12th arrived at Hd.-Quarters within the course of one hour. The reasons assigned in some of your letters, and others which have occurred to me, chiefly of a political nature, assure me that great advantages will be derived from your being wherever the French army and the American head-Quarters are. I therefore not only repeat the offer contained in the enclosed letter, but accompany it with a wish, that you may return, if you can consistently with your own inclination relinquish your present command for the prospects I have mentioned; not else, as it always has been and ever will be my wish to make things as agreeable to you as the nature of the service will admit. To recall the detachment I cannot, for reasons which in my judgment are conclusive. The accidents to which letters are liable forbid me, unless I could write to you in cipher, to go into a full explanation of some matters, wch. you seem not to be well informed, and wch. I wish to set you write in; but I dare not attempt it in a common letter, nor will there be any necessity for it if you return.
I am very sorry, that any letter of mine should be the subject of public discussion, or give the smallest uneasiness to any person living.1 The letter, to which I presume you allude, was a confidential one from me to Mr. Lund Washington, (with whom I have lived in perfect intimacy for near 20 Years.) I can neither avow the letter, as it is published by Mr. Rivington, nor declare that it is spurious, because my letter to this gentn. was wrote in great haste, and no copy of it taken. All I remember of the matter is, that, at the time of writing it, I was a good deal chagrined to find by your letter of the 15th of March, (from York Town in Virginia,) that the French fleet had not at that time appeared within the Capes of the Chesapeake; and I meant (in strict confidence) to express my apprehensions and concern for the delay. But as we know that the alteration of a single word does oftentimes divert the sense, or give force to expression, unintended by the letter-writer, I should not be surprised at Mr. Rivington, or the Inspector of his Gazette, having taken this liberty with the letter in question; especially as he or they have, I am told, lately published a letter from me to Govr. Hancock and his answer, which never had an existence but in the Gazette. That the enemy fabricated a number of Letters for me formerly is a fact well known; that they are not less capable of doing it now, few will deny. As to his asserting, that this is a genuine copy of the original, he well knows that their friends do not want to convict him of a falsehood, and that ours have not the opportunity of doing it, though both sides are knowing to his talents for lying.1
The event, which you seem to speak of with regret, my friendship for you would most assuredly have induced me to impart to you in the moment it happened, had it not been for the request of H—, who desired that no mention might be made of it. Why this injunction on me, while he was communicating it himself, is a little extraordinary. But I complied, and religiously fulfilled it.1 With every sentiment of affectionate regard, I am, &c.
This letter wch. you say has made much noise, I enclose you lest you may not have had it from any other Quarter.
TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE.
Head Quarters,New Windsor,
My Dear Marquis,
I have received your several letters of the 11th, 12th, two of the 13th, and two of the 15th. I am extremely concerned at the temper of your detachment, and the desertions that are taking place. I imagine however that these would have been nearly as great in any other corps that might have been sent, and, after the Pennsylvania line, I think it would be ineligible to detach any other State line. We find by experience, that they are not only dissipated on the march, but, being at a great distance from their States, are almost entirely neglected. Few recruits are raised for them, and these few are lost on the way. We see how totally the Maryland line has declined, and how little is doing to reëstablish it; a line formerly among the most numerous and respectable in the army. Our plan at present appears to me to be to commit the defence of the southern States to the States as far as Pennsylvania inclusive, and to make up any additional succors, that may be necessary by detachment. We must endeavor to compensate these detachments for the loss of State supplies by giving them a larger proportion of Continental. On this principle I am sending you articles mentioned in the enclosed list; twelve hundred shirts, twelve hundred linen overalls, twelve hundred pairs of shoes, twelve hundred pairs of socks, and one hundred hunting-shirts, which set out two days ago from this place. I have also urged the Board of War to do their best for you. * * *
It appears to me extraordinary, that your advices should have given you an idea so different from the whole complexion of the intelligence I had received, concerning the probability of a certain event.1 This, and the situation of our own force, have induced me to regard it as barely possible; too precarious to enter far into our dispositions; possible only in a case, which we are not authorized to expect will happen.2 I dare not trust the details on which this opinion is founded to paper.
The danger to the southern States is immediate and pressing. It is our duty to give them support. The detachment with you, all circumstances considered, was the most proper for the purpose. The project General Greene has lately adopted, adds a particular motive to continuing its destination. It is essential to him, that Phillips should be held in check; and we cannot wholly rely on militia for this. As to a transportation by water, while the enemy commands the Chesapeake and Cape Fear, I do not see how it is practicable. The only cause of hesitation in my mind, about sending your corps to the southward, was a separation from you. I refer you to private letters accompanying this, one written previous to the receipt of your last, the other subsequently. As to our force here, you know what it was when you left us, and you will know what it is now, when I tell you that we have as yet received but few recruits. The enemy’s present force of regular troops at New York is near seven thousand. I shall recommend Major Macpherson, as you request, to General Greene. Present my warmest thanks to that officer and assure him of the sense I have of his services. * * *
I am, my dear Marquis, &c.
TO LIEUTENANT-COLONEL ALEXANDER HAMILTON.
New Windsor, 27 April, 1781.
Your letter of this date has not a little embarrassed me.1 You must remember the ferment in the Pennsylvania line the last campaign, occasioned by the appointment of Major Macpherson, and you know the uneasiness which at this moment exists among the eastern troops on account of the commands conferred upon Colonel Gimat and Major Galvan, although it was the result of absolute necessity.
Should circumstances admit of the formation of another advanced corps, of which I see very little prospect from present appearances, it can be but small, and must be composed almost entirely of eastern troops; and to add to the discontents of the officers of those lines by the further appointment of an officer of your rank to ye command of it, or in it, would, I am certain, involve me in a difficulty of a very disagreeable and delicate nature, and might perhaps lead to consequences more serious than it is easy to imagine. While I adhere firmly to the right of making such appointments as you request, I am at the same time obliged to reflect, that it will not do to push that right too far, more especially in a service like ours, and at a time so critical as the present.
I am convinced, that no officer can with justice dispute your merit and abilities. The opposition heretofore made has not been for the want of those qualifications in the gentlemen, who are and have been the objects of discontent. The officers of the line contend, without having reference to particular persons, that it is a hardship and reflection upon them to introduce brevet officers into commands, (of some permanency), in which there are more opportunities of distinguishing themselves, than in the line of the army at large, and with the men they have had the trouble to discipline and prepare for the field.
My principal concern arises from an apprehension, that you will impute my refusal of your request to other motives, than those I have expressed; but I beg you to be assured I am only influenced by the reasons which I have mentioned. I am, dear Sir, &c.
TO COUNT DE ROCHAMBEAU.
Head Quarters,New Windsor,
I assure your Excellency, that I feel extreme pain at the occasion of that part of your letter of the 26th instant, which relates to an intercepted letter of mine published by the enemy.1 I am unhappy that an accident should have put it in their power to give to the world any thing from me, which may contain an implication the least disagreeable to you, or to the Chevalier Destouches. I assure you sincerely, that I have no copy of the original letter in my possession, so that I am unable by a comparison to determine how far the publication may be just. The enemy have fabricated whole letters for me, and even a series of letters; and it is not improbable they may have given a different turn to some of my expressions in the present instance. It would however be disingenous in me not to acknowledge, that I believe the general import to be true. The copy, however, which your Excellency has sent to me, differs in some respects from that which the enemy has published, as you will perceive by the enclosed Gazette. Whatever construction it may bear, I beg your Excellency will consider the letter to a private friend, a gentleman who has the direction of my concerns at home, totally unconnected with public affairs, and on whose discretion I could absolutely rely. No idea of the same kind has ever gone to any public body.
When I say, that I believe the general import of the publication to be true, I mean it in this sense, that there did appear to me a degree of delay in executing the enterprise suggested by me, with the causes of which I was not well apprized, and an idea of this kind was probably expressed in my letter to Mr. Washington. As to the apparent insinuation, that the first expedition had been preferred to the one proposed by me, I could not have intended to convey it, in its fullest latitude, because it would have been unjust. I could not but have recollected, that my formal proposal did not reach you till after the departure of the first squadron, though the suggestion of it was previous. My letter however was written in haste, and might have been inaccurately expressed. I have lately learnt, (though not officially,) that the cause of the delay I have alluded to was a want of supplies for the fleet. Impressed with a real esteem for and confidence in the Chevalier Destouches, I heard this circumstance with satisfaction.
With this explanation, I leave the matter to his candor and to yours, and flatter myself it will make no impressions inconsistent with an entire persuasion of my sincere esteem and attachment. I have the honor to be, with perfect respect, &c.1
TO MAJOR BENJAMIN TALLMADGE.
Head Quarters,New Windsor,
Your two favors of the 24th and 25th have been duly received.
Fully impressed with the idea of the utility of early, regular, and accurate communication of the kind in contemplation, I shall make no difficulty in acceding to the proposal contained in your private letter from Newport. But at the same time that I am engaging in behalf of the United States a liberal reward for the services of the C—s,1 of whose fidelity and ability I entertain a high opinion, it is certainly but reasonable, from patriotism and every other principle, that their exertions should be proportionably great, to subserve essentially the interest of the public. All the interior and minute arrangements of the correspondence I request you will settle with them as expeditiously and advantageously as may be, and especially that you will urge, in very forcible terms, the necessity of having the communications as circumstantial, frequent, and expeditious as possible.
The great objects of information you are very well acquainted with; such as arrivals, embarkations, preparations for movements, alterations of positions, situations of posts, fortifications, garrisons, strength or weakness of each, distribution and strength of corps, and, in general, every thing which can be interesting and important for us to know.
Besides these, you are also sensible that there are many things upon a smaller scale, which are necessary to be reported, and that whatever intelligence is communicated ought to be, not in general terms, but in detail, and with the greatest precision. At present I am anxious to know (for the reports have been very numerous, vague, and uncertain), whether another embarkation is preparing, and, if so, to what amount, and where destined; what the present force of the enemy is, particularly on Long Island, in New York, and at Kingsbridge; what corps are at the latter place, how strong, and where posted exactly; and, indeed, what the situation, prospects, and designs of the enemy are, so far as they can be penetrated into. I am, &c.
TO LUND WASHINGTON, AT MOUNT VERNON.
New Windsor, 30 April, 1781.1
Your letter of the 18th come to me by the last Post.
I am very sorry to hear of your loss. I am a little sorry to hear of my own; but that which gives me most concern is, that you should go on board the enemy’s vessels, and furnish them with refreshments. It would have been a less painful circumstance to me to have heard, that in consequence of your non-compliance with their request, they had burnt my House and laid the Plantation in ruins. You ought to have considered yourself as my representative, and should have reflected on the bad example of communicating with the enemy, and making a voluntary offer of refreshments to them with a view to prevent a conflagration.
It was not in your power, I acknowledge, to prevent them from sending a flag on shore, and you did right to meet it; but you should, in the same instant that the business of it was unfolded, have declared explicitly, that it was improper for you to yield to the request; after which, if they had proceeded to help themselves by force, you could but have submitted; (and, being unprovided for defence,) this was to be preferred to a feeble opposition, which only serves as a pretext to burn and destroy.
I am thoroughly persuaded, that you acted from your best judgment, and believe, that your desire to preserve my property, and rescue the buildings from impending danger, were your governing motives, but to go on board their vessels, carry them refreshments, commune with a parcel of plundering scoundrels, and request a favor by asking a surrender of my negroes, was exceedingly ill judged, and, ’t is to be feared, will be unhappy in its consequences, as it will be a precedent for others, and may become a subject of animadversion.
I have no doubt of the enemy’s intention to prosecute the plundering plan they have begun; and unless a stop can be put to it, by the arrival of a superior naval force, I have as little doubt of its ending in the loss of all my negroes, and in the destruction of my Houses; but I am prepared for the event; under the prospect of which, if you could deposit in safety at some convenient distance from the water, the most valuable and least bulky articles, it might be consistent with policy and prudence, and a mean of preserving them hereafter. Such and so many things as are necessary for common and present use must be retained, and run their chance through the fiery trial of this summer. I am sincerely yours.
Mrs. Washington joins me in best and affectionate regard for you, Mrs. Washington and Milly Posey. I do not know what negroes they may have left you, and as I have observed before I do not know what number they will have left me by the time they have done—but this much I am sure of, that you shall never want assistance when it is in my power to afford it. I am, &c.
TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE.
New Windsor, 4 May, 1781.
My Dear Marquis,
The freedom of your communications is an evidence to me of the sincerity of your attachment; and every fresh instance of this gives pleasure and adds strength to the bond, which unites us in friendship. In this light I view the intimation contained in your letter of the 23d ulto., from Alexandria, respecting the conduct of Mr. Lund Washington. Some days previous to the receipt of your letter, which only came to my hands yesterday, I received an acct. of this transaction from the Gentleman himself, and immediately wrote and forwarded the answer, of which the enclosed is a copy. This letter, which was written in the moment of my obtaining the first intimation of the matter, may be considered as a testimony of my disapprobation of his conduct, and the transmission of it to you, as a proof of my friendship; because I wish you to be assured, that no man can condemn the measure more sincerely than I do.
A false idea, arising from the consideration of his being my Steward, and in that character more the trustee and guardian of my property than the representative of my honor, has misled his judgment and plunged him into error, (upon the appearance of desertion of my negroes, and danger to my buildings;) for sure I am, that no man is more firmly opposed to the enemy than he. From a thorough conviction of this, and of his integrity, I entrusted every species of my property to his care, without reservation or fear of his abusing it. The last paragraph of my letter to him was occasioned by an expression of his fear, that all the Estates convenient to the river would be stripped of their negroes and movable property.
I am very happy to find, that desertions had ceased, and content had taken place, in the detachment you commanded.1 Before this letter can have reached you, you must have taken your ultimate resolution upon the proposal contained in my letters of the 21st and 22d of last month, and have made the consequent arrangements. I shall be silent, therefore, on the subject of them; and only beg, in case you should not return to this army, and the papers were not lost with your other baggage (on which event give me leave to express my concern), that you would permit Mr. Capitaine to furnish me with copies of the drafts, and remarks of the Pilots (taken at Colonel Dey’s) on the entrance of the harbor of New York. It is possible they may be wanted; and I am not able to furnish them without your assistance.
Mrs. Washington, and the rest of my (small) family, which at present consists only of Tilghman and Humphreys, join me in cordial salutations; and, with sentiments of the purest esteem and most affectionate regard, I remain, my dear Marquis, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Head Quarters,New Windsor,
I have been honored with your Excellency’s favors of the 26th and 29th ultimo., with the inclosures to which you refer—They shall be duly attended to.
Under cover of the letter of the 26th is one from General Gates to Congress, indorsed by the Secretary “Ordered to be transmitted to the Commander in Chief,” without any particular directions respecting the subject of it. Congress have been informed of the instructions which have been given to General Greene relative to bringing on the enquiry upon General Gates as early as circumstances would admit, and they have been advised that it was deemed impracticable at the time to hold a Court at the Southern Army, for the reasons given to General Greene by the Board of General and Field Officers consulted upon the occasion. General Gates has also been furnished with these Reasons. There remain but two methods of determining the matter speedily, in a military way—directing General Greene to order a Court of Enquiry immediately, and at all events; or taking depositions at the Southward, and bringing them before a Court in this Army.
I am sorry that I am obliged so often to wound the feelings of Congress with Accounts of our distressed situation on the score of provisions, but duty calls upon me to represent what it is not in my power, by my utmost exertions, to prevent.1
Your Excellency will perceive, by copies of letters from General Heath of the 6th instant and from Briga. Genl. Clinton of the 30th of April and 4th instant, to what an alarming situation we are reduced at these posts and upon the Northern Frontier. Upon the receipt of Genl. Clinton’s letter of the 30th ulto. I, upon the 5th, sent off 34 Barrels of Beef, which was every ounce in the Magazine and 50 Barrels of Flour to Albany. I am now, upon receiving the letter of the 4th sending off 100 out of 131 barrels in the Magazine. Of meat I have not a Barrel to send. The Quarter Master is unable to transport what is at the distant Magazines, and the States neither do that, or send on Beef, Cattle agreeable to requisition.
I have written most pressingly to the President of Pennsylvania for a supply of Flour, and that nothing may be left unessayed on my part, I am going to send Major General Heath to the Eastern States purposely to represent our distresses for Meat in their true colors, and to point out to them the inevitable consequences of a failure in the non-compliance with the requisitions upon them. Whether this will have any better effect than my frequent applications by letter, I cannot say; but of this I am certain, that if there is not a very great and sudden change of measures it will be next to impossible to keep the Army together.
To add to our present embarrassments, application has just been made to me by Colonel Menonville, who is sent forward by Count Rochambeau, to know in what manner it will be most convenient to us to make payment for a very large quantity of provisions, with which, Doctor Franklin, in behalf of the United States, has contracted to supply the French Army. Colonel Menonville’s instructions have reference to Resolves of Congress and letters which have passed between your Excellency and Count Rochambeau on the subject, but as I am totally a stranger to the whole transaction, I have been under the necessity of referring him to Congress, and have taken the liberty to give him letters of introduction to your Excellency.
As Colonel Menonville was very pressing with me to know whether I could give him any assurances of the provision being furnished, and at what places it would be most proper to deposit it, I could only tell him, that none of what had been required of the States for the subsistence of the Army could possibly be spared, because, the requisitions were they fully complied with, would not be more than adequate to our own wants. I gave him my opinion as to the proper places of deposit, in as particular a manner as the uncertainty of our plan of operations would admit.
Colo. Menonville is likewise charged by the Count Rochambeau, to solicit some heavy Iron Cannon for the works at Newport, in place of the Brass Battering Cannon which are at present in them, and which there will be a necessity of removing should the Army remove. When I told him that I knew of none belonging to the Continent but what were in use, he informed me he understood that there were some in New Hampshire which had been imported for the 74 Gun ship now upon the stocks. Upon this, I promised him to mention the matter to Congress, and to recommend a compliance with his request, if the Cannon should be there and can be spared without inconvenience. I have, &c.1
TO JOHN SULLIVAN, IN CONGRESS.
New Windsor, 11 May, 1781.
Not having seen or heard of any resolve in Congress for establishing the principles of promotion in the army, I am apprehensive that the report of the committee, who had this matter under consideration, is now sleeping in Congress. This, and a recent instance in the Pensylvania Regiment of artillery in proof of the absolute necessity of adopting some mode, by which the whole army may be bd., and a stop thereby be put to those disputes, which keep it in a continual state of distraction and discontent, are the reasons for my troubling you again on this subject, and praying that some decision may be come to by Congress. It is much easier to avoid disagreements than to remove disconts.; and I again declare, that if my differing in sentiment from the opins. of the Comee. in some points has been the occasion of delay, I would, rather than have the matter lie over a moment, yield a free assent to all their propositions; for any principle is better than none. I also wish, though this is more a matter of private than public consideration, that the business could be taken up on acct. of Mr. Tilghman, whose appt. seems to depd. upon it; for, if there are men in the army deserving the comn. proposed for him, he is one of them.
This gentn. came out a captn. of one of the light Infy. Companies of Phila., and served in the flying Camp in 1776. In August of the same year he joined my family, and has been in every action in which the main army was concerned. He has been a zealous servant and slave to the public, and a faithful assistant to me for near five years, great part of which time he refused to receive pay. Honor and gratitude interest me in his favor, and make me sollicitous to obtain his Commission. His modesty and love of concord placed the date of his expected comn. at the 1st of April, 1777, because he would not take rank of Hamilton and Meade, who were declared aides in orders, (which he did not choose to be) before that period, altho’ he had joined my family, and done all the duties of one, from the 1st of Septr. preceding.
My public letters to Congress will have informed you of the situation of this army, and I have no scruple in giving it as my decided opn., that, unless a capital change takes place soon, it will be impossible for me to maintain our Posts, and keep the army from dispersing.
The resolution of Congress to appoint ministers of war, foreign affairs, and finance, gave, as far as I was able to learn the Sentiments of men in and out of ye army, universal satisfaction. Postponing of the 1st, delaying of the 2d, and disagreeing about the 3d have had the direct contrary effect; and I can venture to assure you, not from random guess or vague information, that the want of an able financier, and a proper plan for the disposition of foreign loans will be a greater bar to the obtaining of them than perhaps Congress are aware of. I could say more on this subject, were I at liberty; but I shall only add, that there is not in my opinion a moment to be lost in placing such a character as the world conceives an opinion of at the head of your finance, that he may as soon as possible enter upon the duties of his office. I am, &c.
TO PHILIP SCHUYLER.
Head Quarters,New Windsor,
The letter which you did me the favor to write on the 4th instant has been duly received.
I am glad to find, that you have received the necessary papers, and are entering upon the measures for intercepting the enemy’s communications. I hope you will be enabled, by the assistance of the person proposed, if he is found sufficiently faithful and intelligent, to prosecute those measures to good effect; because I think the intelligence obtained through that channel may be depended upon, and will eventually be of very great consequence to us. Much, I apprehend, is to be dreaded from the predatory incursions of the enemy this campaign. To be apprized of their designs, and guarded against them at all points, as far as possible, will tend most essentially to disconcert their plans and protect our frontiers. As to the disposition of the Vermontese, I know nothing of it, but from report. At present they are at least a dead weight upon us. It is greatly to be regretted, that they are not by some means or other added to our scale, as their numbers, strength, and resources would certainly preponderate very considerably, and make the enemy extremely cautious how they advanced far in that quarter. The bulk of the people, I am persuaded, must be well affected. Should it be otherwise with any of the individuals, I ardently wish they may be detected in their villany, and brought to the punishment they deserve.1
I have been exceeding distressed by the repeated accounts I have received of the sufferings of the troops on the frontier, and the terrible consequences which must ensue, unless they were speedily supplied. What gave a particular poignancy to the sting I felt on the occasion was my inability to afford relief. Such partial supplies however as were on hand, to the very last barrel of meat, I ordered instantly to be sent, and have promised General Clinton what further succor the States will enable me to give. Major-General Heath hath gone to the several eastern States, to enforce my pointed representations, rouse them to more vigorous exertions, and to make arrangements for supplies during the whole campaign. I cannot but hope this measure will be attended with success. I am, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Head Quarters,New Windsor,
His Excellency the Count de Rochambeau having received despatches from the court of France by his son, the Viscount de Rochambeau, who arrived at Boston in the frigate la Concorde, the 6th instant, has requested an interview with me. I have appointed the place of meeting at Weathersfield, on Monday next, for which purpose I shall set out tomorrow from hence. I am in hopes, we shall be able, from the intelligence received, to settle a definitive plan of campaign.
I am sorry to inform your Excellency, that a part of our advanced troops were surprised on Monday morning near Croton River, by about sixty horse and two hundred foot under the command of Colonel Delancey. Colonel Greene, who commanded our party, was mortally wounded in his quarters. The enemy attempted to carry him off, but he died upon the road. Major Flagg was killed. The loss of these officers is to be regretted, especially the former, who had upon several occasions distinguished himself, particularly in the defence of the post at Red Bank, in 1777, when he defeated Count Donop. I enclose a return of our loss upon the late occasion.
The enemy on their return fell in with Captain Fog of the New Hampshire line, who was patrolling near the White Plains. They attempted to surround him, and cut him off by dint of superior numbers; but the captain made so good a disposition of his small force, that he brought them off with the loss of two men only. The enemy had a captain and several men killed in the attack. I have the honor to be, &c.1
SUBSTANCE OF A CONFERENCE BETWEEN GENERAL WASHINGTON AND COUNT DE ROCHAMBEAU AT WEATHERSFIELD, 22 MAY, 1781.2
Rochambeau.—Concerning a project of employing the squadron at Newport to transport the French army to the Chesapeake Bay, he consulted Count de Barras, who deemed it impracticable, chiefly on account of the inferiority of the naval force to that of the enemy. The objections were mentioned in detail.1
1st.Washington.—“However desirable such an event might have been, the reasons assigned by Count de Barras are sufficient to prove its impracticability.”
Rochambeau.—Should the French army march to the North River, will the squadron be safe at Newport under a guard of militia? By secret instructions he is not permitted to separate his army, except for detachments of a short duration. Count de Barras thinks the squadron would not be secure, if the enemy should take possession of Rhode Island; and, moreover, he has been instructed, that, in case the army should march into the country, his fleet should proceed to Boston.
2d.Washington.—“It is Genl. Washington’s opinion, that the plan of Campaign will render it necessary for the French army to March from Newport towards the North River as soon as possible, and that consequently it will be advisable for the Count de Barras (agreeable to his instructions in that case provided) to seek the first favorable moment of removing the squadron under his command to Boston.”
Rochambeau.—In that case what does General Washington propose about Rhode Island? Does he intend it should be kept by a general officer and a body of American militia? It is to be observed, that if in the hurricane months the French fleet should come to the coast, the harbor of Rhode Island might be of use to the operations of the squadrons, either for a union to act against New York, or as a place of retreat in case of misfortune.
3d.Washington.—“As the harbor of Rhode Island may be useful to the fleets of his Most Christian Majesty, it is Genl. Washington’s opinion, that a force should be left for the security of Newport; but, as the Enemy will not be in a condition, from the present circumstances of their affairs, to detach any considerable body of men to re-possess the Island, it is agreed between His Excellency Count de Rochambeau and Genl. Washington, that 500 Militia under a good officer will be sufficient for the Guards for the works; but, in case of an enterprise against them, a greater force should be called for their defence.”
Rochambeau.—If General Washington resolves that Rhode Island shall be left, and the works destroyed, does he consider the siege artillery, powder, magazines, and heavy stores, which cannot follow the French army in a land march, as safe at Providence under the two hundred French troops and the militia? For such an object the English may attempt an enterprise to seize these stores. Would they not be more secure, if taken with the fleet to Boston?
4th.Washington.—“In the former communications between His Excellency Count de Rochambeau and Genl. Washington, it was understood, that the French Fleet was to have remained in the harbor of Newport after the removal of the army; and therefore Providence was fixed upon as a safe and proper deposit of the heavy artillery and spare stores.—It now being determined, that the fleet shall embrace the first opportunity of going round to the Harbor of Boston, it is to be wished, that the heavy artillery and spare Stores should be sent round also. But Genl. Washington being informed by His Excellency Count de Rochambeau, that they have been already deposited at Providence, and that it will be impossible, under the present circumstances of the Fleet, and want of Transportation, to remove them to Boston, he is of opinion, that they may safely remain there under the guard of 200 French Troops, who will be aided by the Militia of the Country in case of need. The possession of Newport will add to their security.”
Rochambeau.—Should the squadron from the West Indies arrive in these seas, an event that will probably be announced by a frigate beforehand, what operations will General Washington have in view, after a union of the French army with his own?
5th.Washington.—“The Enemy, by several detachments from New York, having reduced their force at that Post to less than one half of the number, which they had at the time of the former conference at Hartford in September last, it is thought advisable to form a junction of the French and American Armies upon the North River, as soon as possible, and move down to the vicinity of New York, to be ready to take advantage of any opportunity, which the weakness of the enemy may afford. Should the West Indies Fleet arrive upon the Coast, the force thus combined may either proceed in the operation against New Yk., or may be directed against the enemy in some other quarter, as circumstances shall dictate. The great waste of men, (which we have found from experience) in long marches to the Southern States, the advanced season now to commence these in, and the difficulties and expense of Land transportation thither, with other considerations too well known to His Excellency Count de Rochambeau to need detailing, point out the preference, which an operation against New York seems to have in present circumstances over an attempt to send a force to the southward.”
Answer to the P. S.:
“The observation upon the 4th head sufficiently answers this, as the numerals 500 militia proposed to be stationed at Newport may be disposed of in any manner which His Excellency Count de Rochambeau may think proper.” Weathersfield, 23d May, 1781.
TO THE CHEVALIER DE LA LUZERNE.
Weathersfield, 23 May, 1781.
The letter, which I have the honor to enclose from the Count de Rochambeau, will, I imagine, inform you of the intended march of the French army towards the North River, and of the destination of the King’s squadron now in the harbor of Newport, (if circumstances will admit of the respective movements.) I should be wanting in respect and confidence, were I not to add that our object is New York. The season, the difficulty and expense of land transportations, and the continual waste of men in every attempt to reinforce the southern States, are almost insuperable objections to marching another detachment from the army on the North River; nor do I see how it is possible to give effectual support to those States, and avert the evils which threaten them, while we are inferior in naval force in these Seas.
It is not for me to know in what manner the Fleet of His Most Christian Majesty is to be employed in the W. Indies this summer, or to inquire at what epocha it may be expected on this Coast; but the appearance and aid of it in this Quarter are of such essential importance in any offensive operation, and so necessary to stop the progress of the enemy’s arms to the southward, I shall be excused, I am persuaded, for endeavoring to engage your good offices in facilitating an event on which so much depends. For this I have a stronger plea, when I assure you, that General Rochambeau’s opinion and wishes concur with mine, and that it is at his instance principally I make to you this address.
If we are happy enough to find your Excellency in sentiment with us, it will be in your power to inform the Count de Grasse of the strength and situation of the enemy’s Naval and land force in this Country, the destination of the French squadron under Admiral Barras, and the intention of the Allied arms if a junction can be formed. At present the B. Fleet lyes within Block Island, and about five leagues from Point Judith.
The Count de Rochambeau and the Chevr. Chastellux agree perfectly in sentiment with me, that, while affrs. remain as they now are, the West India fleet should run immediately to Sandy Hook if there are no concerted operations, where they may be met with all the information requisite, and where most likely it will shut in, or cut off, Adml. Arbuthnot, and may be joined by the Count de Barras. An early and frequent communication from the Count de Grasse would lead to preparatory measures on our part, and be a means of facilitating the operation in hand, or any other, which may be thought more advisable. I know your Excellency’s goodness and your zeal for the common cause too well, to offer any thing more as an apology for this liberty; and I persuade myself it is unnecessary for me to declare the respect and attachment, with which I have the honor to be, &c.
CIRCULAR LETTER TO THE STATES.
Weathersfield, 24 May, 1781.
In consequence of a conference held between the Count de Rochambeau and myself at this place, the French army will march, as soon as circumstances will admit, and form a junction with the American upon the North River. The accomplishment of the object, which we have in contemplation, is of the utmost importance to America, and will, in all probability be attained, unless there should be a failure on our part in the number of men, which will be required for the operation, or the enemy should withdraw a considerable part of their force from the southward. It is in our own power, by proper exertions, to prevent the first; and, should the last take place, we shall be amply repaid our expenses, by liberating the southern States, where we have found by experience we are only vulnerable.
Upon the calculations, that I have been able in concert with some of the most experienced French and American officers to form, the operation in view will require, in addition to the French army, all the Continental battalions from New Hampshire to New Jersey inclusive to be completed to their full establishment. You must be sensible, that the measures taken for that purpose, in consequence of the last requisition of Congress, have been very far from answering the end; as few recruits, comparatively speaking, have yet been sent forward, and of those, many have been discharged on account of inability. You must also take into consideration, that a number of those men, who were returned when the requisition was made, have since been taken off by the various casualties incident to an army; I estimate about one sixth of the number, therefore provision must at this time be made to replace them.
From what has been premised, you will perceive, without my urging further reasons, the necessity I am under of calling upon you in the most earnest manner, to devise means to send into the field without delay the number of men, which have been already voted for the completion of the battalions of your State, and the further deficiency of one sixth just mentioned. The term of three years, or for the war, would undoubtedly be preferable to any shorter period; but if they cannot be obtained on those conditions, necessity must oblige us to take them for the campaign only, which ought to be reckoned to the last of December. I should hope, that, by proper exertions in collecting and sending forward the men that have been already raised, and compelling by vigorous and decisive methods the delinquent towns to furnish their quotas, the greater part of the men may be collected by the 1st of July.
Arguments surely cannot be wanting to impress the legislature with a true sense of the obligation, which they are under, of furnishing the means now called for. The enemy, counting upon our want of ability, or upon our want of energy, have, by repeated detachments to the southward, reduced themselves in New York to a situation, which invites us to take advantage of it; and, should the lucky moment be lost, it is to be feared that they will, after subduing the southern States, raise a force in them, sufficient to hold them, and return again to the northward with such a number of men, as will render New York secure against any force, which we can at this time of day raise or maintain. Our allies in this country expect and depend upon being supported by us in the attempt, which we are about to make, and those in Europe will be astonished, should we neglect the favorable opportunity, which is now offered.
As it is probable, that some militia, in addition to the full complement of Continental troops, may be necessary to support communications and other purposes, you will be pleased to direct — men to be held in readiness to march within one week after I shall call for them, to serve three months after they have joined the army. And I would take the liberty of requesting, that the executive may be vested with full powers, during the recess, to comply with any further requisition I may make for men, provisions, or for the means of transportation, which last may be most essential in the course of our operations, should it become necessary to bring provisions or stores from a distance.
I shall be glad to be favored with an answer as soon as possible, with an assurance of what I may depend upon; that, if I do not clearly see a prospect of being supported, I may turn my views to a defensive instead of an offensive plan, and save the States and our allies the expense, which would be needlessly incurred by any but an ample and effectual preparation.
I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Head Quarters,New Windsor,
I do myself the honor to inform Congress, that I returned from Weathersfield on the evening of the 25th. I met only the Count de Rochambeau at that place, accompanied by the Chevalier de Chastellux. The British fleet having appeared off Block Island, the Count de Barras did not think it prudent to be absent. In consequence of the measures concerted at the late interview, all the French troops, except about two hundred to be left as a guard over their heavy stores and baggage at Providence, are to march as soon as circumstances will admit, and form a junction with me upon the North River. Five hundred militia are to be stationed upon Rhode Island for the preservation of the works, which have been erected, and for the security of the harbor.
Upon a full consideration of affairs in every point of view, an operation against New York has been deemed preferable to making further detachments to the southward, while they can only be sent by land. The principal reasons, which induced to this determination, are as follows: the difficulty and expense of transportation, the lateness of the season, which would throw the troops into the extremity of the heat of summer; the great waste of men, which we have ever experienced in so long a march at the healthiest season; and, above all, a strong presumption, that the enemy, weakened as they now are by detachments, must either sacrifice the valuable post of New York and its dependencies, or recall a part of their force from the southward to defend them.
The Continental battalions, from New Hampshire to New Jersey inclusive, (supposing them complete,) aided by four thousand French troops, and such a reinforcement of militia as the operation after its commencement may seem to require, have been deemed adequate to the attempt upon New York with its present garrison. But, as the battalions of those States are still considerably deficient, I have written in the most pressing manner to the respective legislatures, to make up such deficiencies with men for the campaign only, if they cannot be obtained for a longer term, and have desired the governors to hold certain numbers of militia ready for service, should I have occasion to call for them. I am however determined to require no more, than are absolutely necessary. I shall also call on the State of Pennsylvania to hold sixteen hundred militia in readiness.
Congress have been made so fully acquainted with the difficulties of every kind, under which the military department labors, that they must be sensible that nothing but the most vigorous exertions on the part of the States to supply men, provisions, and the means of transportation, can enable me to prosecute to effect the operations, which I have agreed, in conjunction with the army of our ally, to undertake, or indeed any other. At the time I made my requisitions upon them, I summed up every argument in my power to induce a compliance; but, should I find any hesitation, I shall hope for the countenance and support of Congress.
I am very apprehensive of a formidable invasion of the northern frontier, as the enemy from Canada are undoubtedly collecting in considerable force at Crown Point. Should this be the case, it will cause a very unfortunate diversion, and be very embarrassing just at this time, when our whole force will be required here. The necessity, which I clearly foresee we shall be under, of carrying every man, who can be spared from other duties, into the field, induces me to request an order for such men of the invalid corps at Boston and Philadelphia, as are fit for garrison duty, may be ordered to march to West Point, where their services will be the same as those upon which they are now employed, and where they may be very useful.
There has been a necessity of abandoning the post of Fort Schuyler, and removing the garrison and stores to the German Flats. The barracks had been, the beginning of this month, consumed by fire, and the works so exceedingly damaged by the heavy rain storm that they were rendered indefensible; nor could they be repaired in any reasonable time by the number of men, who could be spared as a garrison. Brigadier-General Clinton recommended the evacuation of the post, as the only alternative, to which I the more readily consented, as it had been for some time past the opinion of the officers best acquainted with that part of the country, that a post at the German Flats would be more easily supported, and equally advantageous to the security of the frontier. Upon my return I found your Excellency’s favors of the 17th and 20th, and Mr. Secretary Thomson’s of the 10th. I shall pay due attention to their contents. I am, &c.
TO JOHN SULLIVAN, IN CONGRESS.
Head Quarters,New Windsor,
I have been favored with your two letters of the 2d & 17th of May; the former reached me at Weathersfield after I had met the Count de Rochambeau at that place, from which time to the present moment my whole attention has been so occupied by a variety of concerns that I have been hitherto involuntarily prevented from doing myself the pleasure of writing to you.
No Arguments were necessary to convince me of the very great public utility, which would result from the success of the plan, you proposed laying before Congress.—Had I been unapprized of the advantages, which might be derived to our cause from a successful attempt, or even a powerful diversion in that quarter, the reasons you have offered would have carried irrefragable demonstration with them, and induced me to be of your opinion. But the perplexed, distressed and embarrassed state of our affairs, on account of supplies, (with which you are well acquainted,) the languid efforts of the States to procure men, and the insuperable difficulties in the way of transportation, would, I apprehend, have rendered the scheme (however devoutly to be wished and desired) abortive in the first instance. And I must inform you, that there is yet another obstacle, which makes the attempt you have suggested absolutely impracticable with the means you propose, but which I dare not commit to paper, for fear of the same misfortune, which has already happened to some of my letters.
You will have seen before the receipt of this, by my public letter to Congress of the 27th instant, the result of the deliberations of the Count de Rochambeau and myself at Weathersfield. That plan, upon the maturest consideration, and after combining all the present circumstances and future prospects, appeared, (tho’ precarious,) far the most eligible of any we could possibly devise, whilst we are inferior at sea. The object was considered to be of greater magnitude, and more within our reach, than any other. The weakness of the garrison of New York, the centrical position for drawing together men and supplies, and the spur, which an attempt against that place, would give to every exertion, were among the reasons, which prompted to that undertaking, and which promised the fairest prospect of success, unless the enemy should recall a considerable part of their force from the southward. And even in this case, the same measure, which might produce disappointment in one quarter, would certainly in the event afford the greatest relief in another. While an opportunity presents itself of striking the enemy a fatal blow, I will persuade myself, the concurring exertions of Congress, of the several States immediately concerned, and of every individual in them, who is well affected to our cause, will be united in yielding every possible aid on the occasion. At this crisis, while I rejoice at the appointment of the minister of finance, I have sincerely to regret, that the ministers of the other departments have not also been appointed, especially a minister of war. At the same time I am happy to learn, the mode of promotion is on the point of being finally established. With the highest sentiments of regard, I am, &c.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL GREENE.
Head Quarters,New Windsor,
My Dear Sir,
I have received your favor of the 22d & 27th of April, inclosing copies of your letters to Congress.
The difficulties which you daily encounter and surmount with your small force, add not a little to your reputation; and I am pretty well assured, that, should you be obliged finally to withdraw from South and even from North Carolina, it would not be attributed to your want either of abilities or of exertion, but to the true cause, the want of means to support the war in them. I feel for your mortification at the loss of the day before Camden, after it seemed so much in your favor; but I hope you will have found, that the enemy suffered severely, as in their publication of the affair in the New York paper they confess the loss of two hundred. The reduction of Fort Watson does honor to General Marion and Colonel Lee.
I have lately had an interview with Count de Rochambeau at Weathersfield. Our affairs were very attentively considered in every point of view, and it was finally determined to make an attempt upon New York with its present garrison, in preference to a southern operation, as we had not the decided command of the water. You will readily suppose the reasons, which induced this determination, were the inevitable loss of men from so long a march, more especially in the approaching hot season, and the difficulty, I may say impossibility, of transporting the necessary baggage, artillery, and stores by land. I am in hopes, if I am supported as I ought to be by the neighboring States in this, which you know has always been their favorite operation, that one of these consequences will follow, that the enemy will be expelled from the most valuable position which they hold upon the continent, or they will be obliged to recall part of their force from the southward to defend it. Should the latter happen, you will be most essentially relieved by it. The French troops will begin their march this way as soon as certain circumstances will admit. I can only give you the outlines of our plan. The dangers, to which letters are exposed, make it improper to commit to paper the particulars; but as matters ripen I will keep you as well informed as circumstances will allow.
A detachment of between fifteen hundred and two thousand men sailed from New York about the 13th of May. I advised Baron Steuben of this, and desired him to communicate it to you. I presume they will either stop in the Chesapeake Bay or in Cape Fear, except the operations of the Spaniards in the Floridas should call for reinforcement to that quarter. But I can hardly flatter myself, that they will attend to the preservation of St. Augustine. Pensacola, we are told, has fallen.
The Marquis de Lafayette informed me, that about eight hundred recruits would be ready to march from Virginia the latter end of May. I have no certain accounts from Maryland lately; but I was told by a gentleman from thence, that about four hundred might be expected to march in April. I make no doubt but you are kept regularly advised by the superintending officers. I have not heard, that General Wayne had left Yorktown, but I have reason to believe he has gone before this time. If no fresh discontents arise among those troops, the detachment with Wayne will be a most valuable acquisition to you.1 They are chiefly the old soldiers, and completely furnished with every necessary. I am, &c.
TO COUNT DE ROCHAMBEAU.
Head Quarters,New Windsor,
I had last evening the honor of receiving your favor of the 31st of May by the Duke de Lauzun, who informs me, that he is authorized by your Excellency and Count de Barras to enter into a free communication with me upon the subject of the council of war held on board the Duc de Bourgogne, and to request my opinion upon the propriety of their determination.1
I must confess to your Excellency, that there is weight in the reasons, which are offered for the detention of his Majesty’s fleet in the harbor of Newport, in preference to its going round to Boston; but as I cannot think, that it will be as safe in all possible cases in the harbor of Newport, after a greater part of the French army has been withdrawn, as it would be in the harbor of Boston, I must adhere to my opinion, and to the plan fixed at Weathersfield, as most eligible, all circumstances considered. I would not, however, set up my single judgment against that of so many gentlemen of experience, more especially as the matter partly depends upon a knowledge of marine affairs, of which I candidly confess my ignorance. I would, therefore, in order to avoid delay, rest the matter upon the following footing. If your Excellency, the Count de Barras, and the other gentlemen should, upon a further consideration of the subject, aided by any new informations, which you may have received, still think it most advisable to adhere to the former resolution of the council, you may make use of the enclosed letters to the governors of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, which are left open for your inspection. If, on the contrary, you should change your opinions, the letters may be destroyed, as that which was written by me to the governor of Rhode Island from Weathersfield will be sufficient for the purpose of calling out five hundred militia for the present, and such further numbers as exigencies may require.
At any rate, I could wish that the march of the troops might now be hurried as much as possible. The strides, which the enemy are making to the southward, demand a collection of our force in this quarter, that we may endeavor to commence our operation. I know of no measure, which will be so likely to afford relief to the southern States, in so short a time, as a serious menace against New York. This your Excellency may remember was a principal inducement for our undertaking that operation, in preference to the other, which was spoken of; and I assure you the calls upon me from the southward are so pressing, that nothing but seeing our preparations against New York in some degree of forwardness will content them, or convince them that they are likely to derive any advantages from the force, which they see detained here. I have forwarded your Excellency’s despatch to the Minister by a Gentleman in the Quarter Master’s department.
I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Head Quarters,New Windsor,
I have been honored with your Excellency’s favors of the 28th May with their several enclosures.
I have written to the Board of War, on the subject of the removal of the convention troops, and have given it as my opinion, with my reasons, that they had best for the present be halted in Pennsylvania. An exchange of those troops, upon proper terms, would certainly be a desirable thing; but under present circumstances I do not think it would be advisable to give the enemy any reinforcement of privates. Every man they get adds immediately to their force. Many of those, whom we obtain in exchange, are out of their term of service, and consequently lost to us.
It is as much my wish, as it can be your Excellency’s, that General Gates’s affair should be brought to a decision. You must be convinced, that nothing has been left undone by me to effect that purpose. General Gates informs me, that he cannot think of serving, until the matter shall have been properly investigated, and that he shall retire in the mean time to Virginia. I see no probability of any thing further being done until there shall be some recess in southern operatians.
I hope the rules of promotion, which Congress have been pleased to establish, will be generally satisfactory. Individuals may be affected by the change of mode, but it will be impossible to devise a plan, which will not interfere in some degree with particular interests. I send your Excellency by this conveyance duplicate of my letters, the original was taken in last week’s mail. The communication by the post from hence to Philadelphia has become so dangerous, that I cannot in future trust any despatches of importance by him, and I beg you will observe the same rule. The parties which are sent out know the exact time at which he may be expected, and cannot fail of securing him. They have not the same opportunity of intercepting expresses, as their times of riding are uncertain. I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO JOHN MATHEWS, IN CONGRESS.
New Windsor, 7 June, 1781.
* * * * * *
The freedom of your communications is highly pleasing to me. The portrait you have drawn of our affairs is strictly agreeable to the life, and you do me but justice in supposing, that my mind is fortified against, or rather prepared for, the most distressing accts. that can be given of them. It would not be the part of friendship, therefore, to conceal any circumstance, from an unwillingness to give pain, especially as the knowledge of them, to a man determined not to sink under the weight of perplexities, may be of the utmost importance. But we must not despair; the game is yet in our own hands; to play it well is all we have to do, and I trust the experience of error will enable us to act better in future. A cloud may yet pass over us, individuals may be ruined, and the Country at large, or particular States, undergo temporary distress; but certain I am, that it is in our power to bring the war to a happy conclusion.
My public letters to Congress, and in a more especial manner my private communications to Governor Rutledge, will bring you fully acquainted with the situation of things in this quarter, and the prospects before us. How far we shall be able to extricate ourselves from the first, and realize the latter, time only can shew. I have great expectations from the appointment of Mr. Morris, but they are not unreasonable ones; for I do not suppose, that by art magick he can do more than recover us by degrees from the labyrinth into which our finance is plunged.
I am very sorry for the disagreeable situation of our suffering soldiery at Charles Town, and wish they could be relieved without adding to the pressure under which we at present groan. How far it is in General Greene’s power to liberate, by exchange, our prisoners in that quarter I know not; but all the authority I can give to do this, he has, reserving the Troops of convention from his disposal. With these I have plague enough. In a late interview between the two Commissaries of Prisoners, Mr. Loring refused to Exchange General Burgoyne, unless the prisoners taken at the Cedars are allowed for, which is opposed by a resolve of Congress; and has actually refused to pay a debt of privates, which three months ago he promised to do. Mrs. Washington, who has been very unwell for some time past, joins me in respectful complimts. to Mrs. Mathews.
I have the honor to be, &c.
TO GOVERNOR JEFFERSON.
New Windsor, 8 June, 1781.
I have had the honor of receiving your Excellency’s favors of the 9th and 28th May.
The progress, which the enemy are making in Virginia, is very alarming, not only to the State immediately invaded, but to all the rest; as I strongly suspect, from the most recent European intelligence, they are endeavoring to make as large seeming conquests as possible, that they may urge the plea of uti possidetis in the proposed mediation. Your Excellency will be able to judge of the probability of this conjecture from the circular letter of the President of Congress of the 1st instant.1
Were it prudent to commit a detail of our Plans and expectations to paper, I could convince your Excellency by a variety of reasons, that my presence is essential to the operations, which have lately been concerted between the French commanders and myself, and which are to open in this quarter, provided the British keep possession of New York. There have lately been rumors of an evacuation of that place, but I do not place confidence in them. Should I be supported by the neighboring States in the manner which I expect, the enemy will, I hope, be reduced to the necessity of recalling part of their force from the southward to support New York, or they will run the most imminent risk of being expelled, with a great loss of stores, from that post, which is to them invaluable while they think of prosecuting the war in America; and should we, by a lucky coincidence of circumstances, gain a naval superiority, their ruin would be inevitable. The prospect of giving relief to the southern States, by an operation in this quarter, was the principal inducement for undertaking it. Indeed we found, upon a full consideration of our affairs in every point of view, that, without the command of the water, it would be next to impossible for us to transport the artillery, baggage, and stores of the army to so great a distance; and, besides, that we should lose at least one third of our force by desertion, sickness, and the heats of the approaching season, even if it could be done.
Your Excellency may probably ask whether we are to remain here for the above reasons, should the enemy evacuate New York, and transfer the whole war to the southward. To that I answer without hesitation, that we must in such case follow them at every expense, and under every difficulty and loss; but that, while we remain inferior at sea, and there is a probability of giving relief by diversion, (and that perhaps sooner than by sending reinforcements immediately to the point in distress,) good policy dictates the trial of the former.
Give me leave, before I take leave of your Excellency in your public capacity, to express the obligations I am under for the readiness and zeal with which you have always forwarded and supported every measure, which I have had occasion to recommend through you, and to assure you, that I shall esteem myself honored by a continuation of your friendship and correspondence, should your country permit you to remain in the private walk of life. I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO COLONEL WILLIAM CRAWFORD.
New Windsor, 9 June, 1781.
Mr. Randolph delivered me your letter of the 23d ulto.—and sometime ago I was favored with another from you. Give me leave to thank you most sincerely for your kind attention to my interests, and to assure you that I shall ever hold in grateful recollection your friendly endeavors to serve me. My whole time is, and has been since I came into the service, so much engrossed by the public duties of my station, that I have totally neglected all my private concerns, which are declining every day, and may, possibly, end in capital losses, if not absolute ruin, before I am at liberty to look after them.
With respect to the round bottom, I can give you little or no information—as far as a bad memory serves me (for I have no papers by me to refer to), I located it in the office of Mr. Thom’s Lewis, surveyor of Augusta, and laid some rights, which I had purchased, upon it, to the amount of the contents of your survey, but what has been done in the matter since, I know not,—nor am I quite certain that all that I have here said was actually done. If without giving yourself much trouble you could enquire into this matter, and pursue the necessary measures to secure this Land for me, I shall acknowledge it as an act of kindness, will repay any expense you may be run to in the prosecution of the business, and make grateful returns when it is in my power to do so. I could wish to obtain a Patent for it, after obviating other claims, for I have heard I think, that there is a caveat to prevent my obtaining a patent.
Can you tell me how matters stand with respect to my Racoon Tract? Are the People who live on it still unconvinced of my having a Patent for it? If on the contrary they know, or believe that I have such a Patent, what do they propose to do in that case? It is hard upon me to have property which has been fairly obtained disputed and withheld. On the other hand, if the settlers on the Land either through ignorance or disbelief of its being mine, have made improvements of value thereon, and wish to live on and enjoy them, I would agree that they should remain seven years longer upon their respective Plantations, on terms which should in their own eyes appear moderate and easy, even if it amounted to nothing more than a bare acknowledgment, subject, nevertheless, at the expiration of that term to such reasonable Rents as the Land and Improvements are worth; and shall be adjudged just for both Landlord and Tenant. Upon these terms I would give Leases for lives, or a great length of years, provided also (in the latter case especially) some mode can be adopted to let the value of the Rents every seven or ten years, be so raised as to bear some proportion to the increased value of the Land.
I shall thank you for giving me information respecting this matter—and the round bottom, and in general, what situation my landed affairs in that country are in, it not being impossible, nor yet very unlikely (as I can give no attention to them myself) that my other Patented Lands may be settled upon and claimed in the same way as that is on Racoon. I pray you also to be so kind as to let me know how Simpson employs his time, his force, and my mill. He has not, that I can hear of, rendered any account or paid one farthing for the profits of my mill or share of the Plantation, since he has been on the Land, which is poor encouragement for me to leave my property in his hands. Does the boundary as it is now settled between Virginia and Pensylvania affect the property of these Lands which were surveyed and Patented in Virginia, but which by the late line are thrown into Pensylvania? This, I believe, is the case with respect to my tract on Racoon creek, if no more of it. * * *
TO COUNT DE ROCHAMBEAU.
Head Quarters,New Windsor,
I am honored by your Excellency’s favors of the 9th and 10th instant, and with their very interesting communications, which you may be assured will be kept perfectly secret. I flatter myself, that the whole convoy will arrive in safety in some of the eastern ports, as I believe the British ships are all cruising off the Hook.1
The Count de Barras has furnished me with the result of the second council of war. I have so high a respect for the opinions of the gentlemen, who composed it, that I should have been satisfied had they barely mentioned their adherence to their former determination; but the new arguments, which have been introduced in favor of the detention of the fleet1 at Rhode Island, leave me no room to doubt the propriety of the measure.
I am so fully convinced, that your Excellency will make no unnecessary delay in your march, that I have only occasion to repeat my former request, that it may be commenced as soon as circumstances will admit. My last accounts from the Marquis de Lafayette were of the 3d of June. The British army, in very considerable force, were then between Richmond and Fredericksburg; their destination was uncertain; but from their superiority they were at full liberty to go wherever they pleased. The enclosed copy of a letter from the President of Congress to me will give your Excellency the latest intelligence from South Carolina.
Your requisitions to the Count de Grasse go to every thing I could wish. You cannot, in my opinion, too strongly urge the necessity of bringing a body of troops with him, more especially as I am very dubious whether our force can be drawn together by the time he proposes to be here. Now four thousand or five thousand men, in addition to what we shall certainly have by that time, would, almost beyond a doubt, enable us with the assistance of the fleet to carry our object. It is to be regretted, that the Count’s stay upon the coast will be limited. That consideration is an additional reason for wishing a force equal to giving a speedy determination to the operation.1
Your Excellency will be pleased to recollect, that New York was looked upon by us as the only practicable object under present circumstances; but should we be able to secure a naval superiority, we may perhaps find others more practicable and equally advisable. If the frigate should not have sailed, I wish you to explain this matter to the Count de Grasse; as, if I understand it, you have in your communication to him confined our views to New York alone. And, instead of advising him to run immediately into the Chesapeake, will it not be best to leave him to judge, from the information he may from time to time receive of the situation of the enemy’s fleet upon this coast, which will be the most advantageous quarter for him to make his appearance in? In the letter, which was written to the minister from Weathersfield, in which he was requested to urge the Count to come this way with his whole fleet, Sandy Hook was mentioned as the most desirable point; because, by coming suddenly there, he would certainly block up any fleet, which might be within; and he would even have a very good chance of forcing the entrance, before dispositions could be made to oppose him. Should the British fleet not be there, he could follow them to the Chesapeake, which is always accessible to a superior force. I am, &c.
TO GOVERNOR CLINTON.
Head Quarters,New Windsor,
I have just received a letter from Brigadier-General Clinton, of the 15th, enclosing the examination of two prisoners who were taken lately by one of his scouts; from whence it appears the enemy in Canada have not made any movements in force, or preparations for an incursion; and indeed this intelligence corresponds so exactly with that which has been received through other channels, that I cannot but regret having sent the reinforcement to the northward, at a time when the aid of every man was so essential to the success of the operations in contemplation.
As it will be indispensably necessary, when we advance towards the enemy’s lines, to withdraw the regular force from the northward, I have thought proper to advise General Clinton and your Excellency of it, that provision might be made as far as practicable to replace these troops with the men engaged for the campaign and the three years’ service.1 At the same time that I express my unhappiness at being forced to the measure, and assure your Excellency, that nothing but necessity could induce me to recall the Continental troops, I wish it may be understood, that, when the moment of operating arrives, there is not any consideration which can persuade me to counteract the plan, that has been concerted between the Conut de Rochambeau and myself. But lest the enemy should attempt to take advantage of their absence, to make inroads on the frontier, in order to distract our attention and cause a diversion in favor of their most important post, I beg leave to recommend in the strongest terms, that every means in your power should be made use of to guard against such an event.
I will also take the liberty to suggest, whether an additional security might not be afforded to those posts, which are exposed to the ravages of the enemy, by my sending a Continental officer to assist in rousing and assembling the force of the country, and to put himself at the head of such militia and volunteers, as might be drawn together on an emergency from the district of country called Vermont; and whether, in that case, Brigadier-General Stark would not be a proper character to employ on this service, especially as he has already obtained a reputation from his successes in that quarter, is undoubtedly a man of bravery, and has been accustomed to command irregular troops in action. It appears to me, a popular officer in that situation would be extremely advantageous on many accounts. Whether there may be reasons of state against it, I know not. I have, therefore, submitted it to your consideration. I beg your opinion freely on the subject, and have the honor to be with great respect, &c.
TO PRESIDENT REED.
Head Quarters,New Windsor,
In the course of our expected operations we shall stand in need of a species of troops, which are not at present to be procured either in this army or in any of the States to the northward of Pennsylvania. They are expert Rifle Men. The use of these men will be to fire into the embrasures and to divide the enemy from their parapets when our approaches are carried very near to their Works. Without this can be done, our loss will be immense when we shall come within Musquet Shot—General Lincoln informs me that the enemy made use of this mode at the Siege of Charlestown, and that his Batteries were in a manner silenced, untill he opposed the same kind of troops and made it as dangerous for the enemy to shew their men as it had been before for him to expose his.—The number which we shall want will be about three hundred, and I shall be exceedingly obliged to your Excellency if you will endeavor to procure so many from the Frontier of Pennsylvania.
Had the Quota of Militia from your State have come to this army, I should have endeavored to have selected the required number from among them. But that not beeing the case—I think it but reasonable that the expence of raising the Rifle Men should be Continental. I have written to this effect to Congress and have requested the president to signify their approbation to Your Excellency if they think proper to accede to it.—I would wish the Corps to be formed into Six Companies of 50 each under the command of a Captain and two Subs—the whole to be commanded by a Major—The term of service to the 1st day of January next. The choice of the officers I shall leave to your Excellency. If Major Parr formerly of the 7th Penna. Regt. would engage in such a service a better officer could not be found for the purpose. The Bounty cannot now be determined, and therefore it will be with you to procure them on as low terms as possible. But that the business may not be retarded for want of proper encouragement, I would wish you to make yourself acquainted with the Sum which will most probably engage them, and offer that, whatever it may be. One of the terms should be that they are to find their own Rifles, as we have none in Store—I shall be glad to hear as soon as possible what probability there will be of succeeding in this undertaking. The greater part of the men, must be with the Army by the 1st of Augt., or their services will be useless afterwards. I am, &c.
TO COUNT DE ROCHAMBEAU.
Head Quarters, nearPeekskill,
I had last evening the honor of your Excellency’s favor of the 28th, with a postscript of the 29th.
The enemy by sending a detachment into Monmouth County in Jersey to collect Horses, Cattle and other plunder, have so weakened their posts upon the North end of York Island, that a most favorable opportunity seems at this moment to present itself of possessing them by a Coup de maine, which, if it succeeds, will be of the utmost consequence to our future operations. I have for this reason determined to make the attempt on the night of the 2d of July. But as we cannot with the remainder of our own force maintain the advantage should we gain it, I must entreat your Excellency to put your first Brigade under march tomorrow morning, the remaining Troops to follow as quick as possible, and endeavor to reach Bedford by the evening of the 2d of July, and from thence to proceed immediately towards Kingsbridge, should circumstances render it necessary. Your Magazines having been established on the Route by Crompond it may perhaps be out of your power to make any deviation, but could you make it convenient, you would considerably shorten the distance by marching from Ridgeburg to Salem and from thence to Bedford leaving Crompond upon your right.1
There is another matter which appears to me exceedingly practicable upon the same night that we attempt the works upon York Isld. and which I would wish to commit to the execution of the Duke de Lauzun provided his Corps can be brought to a certain point, in time.—It is the surprise of a Corps of light Troops under the command of Colo. Delancey which lies at Morrisania without being covered by any Works. To effect this, the Duke must be at Bedford on the 2d of July by 12 o’clock, if possible, where he will be joined by Colo. Sheldon with 200 Horse and Foot and on his march from thence by about 400 Infantry, both Officers and Men perfectly acquainted with the Country—Upon a supposition that the Duke may be at Bedford at the above mentioned time—and that he will be ready to carry the design into execution, he shall be met there by particular instructions from me and will find good guides. At any rate, I must request your Excellency to send orders to the Duke this evening to continue his march tomorrow morning and to reach Bedford by the Evening of the 2d of July if he cannot be there by noon. In this latter case the enterprise against Delancey must probably be laid aside and the Legion with the first Brigade of your Army will be at hand to support the detachment upon York Island should they succeed—I shall move down with the remainder of this Army towards Kingsbridge and shall be ready to form a junction with your Excellency below at some point which shall be hereafter agreed upon.
I am certain I need not recommend the proper degree of secrecy to your Excellency—One reason which makes it more than commonly necessary in the Country where you are, is, that the enemy will have emissaries in your Camp in the Garb of peasants with provisions and other matters and will be attentive to every word which they may hear drop.
You will much oblige me by letting me know instantly by return of the line of Expresses whether your first Brigade and the Legion can march tomorrow morning and whether the Duke can be at Bedford by the time first proposed (the 2d of July) at noon.
Under the foregoing circumstances it becomes necessary for me to march from hence on Monday, and I therefore submit it to your Excellency whether it will not be more convenient to both of us to defer our interview untill the Armies shall have proceeded lower down. I shall take care to establish a proper communication between the Columns and to see that a junction is formed before there shall be any danger of an attack from the Enemy. I have, &c.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL LINCOLN.
The object of your present command,—consisting of two regiments, (formed into four battalions,) under the command of Colonel Scammell and Lieutenant-Colonel Sprout, of a detachment of artillery under the command of Captain Burbeck, of the corps of watermen under the command of Major Darby, and the waterguard under the command of Captain Pray,—is to attempt the surprise of the enemy’s posts upon the north end of York Island.
My ideas, as to the most probable mode of attaining this object, have been minutely detailed in the several conversations which we have had upon the subject, and you have been furnished with such papers as I have been able to collect, and upon which my judgment has been formed. But it is not my wish, or desire, that these should be any restraint upon you. Your own observation and the circumstances of the moment must in a great degree govern you.
The success of your enterprise depending absolutely upon secrecy and surprise, it will be wrong to prosecute it a moment after you are discovered, unless the discovery is made so near the works, that you may, by a rapid movement, gain them before the enemy have time to re-collect and put themselves in a posture of defence. Fort George, upon Laurel Hill, ought to be your primary object, because success at that place will open a communication with the main, afford an asylum to the troops, who may be disappointed in other attacks, and secure a retreat in case of necessity to the main body of the army.
Should you carry Fort Knyphausen and Fort Tryon only, you cannot without infinite risk hold them, as we shall not be in a situation to support you from without. I would therefore recommend your damaging them as much as you possibly can upon a sudden and relinquishing them. The artillery-men will be proportionably divided to the three attacks; each party will be provided with two lanterns and two rockets, one of which is to be fired in each work as soon as it is carried.
If complete success should attend the enterprise, not a moment’s time should be lost in drawing the boats across the Island from the North River into Haerlem Creek, and securing them under the guns of Fort George, if circumstances will admit of it. But in case of a disappointment, and being obliged to retreat by water, and not being able to pass the enemy’s ships and boats, the dernier resort must be a push over to the Jersey shore, and an abandonment of the boats, if they cannot be drawn up the bank and carried off on carriages. It will be very essential, that I should be made acquainted as early as possible with your success, and the extent of it. If complete, you will announce it by the firing of thirteen cannon, at one minute’s interval, after all lesser firing and confusion have ceased. If Fort George only is carried, six cannon are to be fired in the same manner. For Fort Knyphausen, Tryon, or both of them, you need not give signals, because you are, as before directed, immediately to relinquish them.
The foregoing is upon a supposition, that the principal object, the attempt upon the works on York Island, is carried into execution; but, should you, upon reconnoitring the enemy to-morrow, find it unadvisable to prosecute the plan, or should you be obliged to give it over on account of an early discovery by the enemy’s shipping or boats, I would then have you turn your attention to the support of an attempt, which is also to be made on the morning of the 3d by the Duke de Lauzun upon Delancey’s corps lying at Morrisania. To effect this, you will land your men at any convenient place above the mouth of Spiten Devil Creek, and march to the high grounds in front of Kingsbridge, where you will lie concealed until the Duke’s attack is announced by firing or other means. You may then dispose of your force in such a manner, in view of the enemy, as to make them think your party larger than it is, which may have the double effect of preventing them from coming over the bridge to turn the Duke’s right, and also of preventing any of Delancey’s party from escaping that way. Your further operations must depend upon the movements of the enemy and other circumstances.
I expect I shall be myself in the neighborhood of Kingsbridge early in the morning of the 3d, with the remainder of the army. I shall as soon as possible open a communication with you, and give you such orders as the general state of matters may require. If you land, send an officer and small party up the main road to meet me. In case you land upon the east side of the river, above the mouth of Spiten Devil Creek, you will send your boats up along the east shore. If Major Darby receives no particular directions from me, he will proceed with them to King’s Ferry. Given at Head-Quarters, near Peekskill, this 1st day of July, 1781.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Head Quarters, nearDobbs’s Ferry,
I do myself the honor to inform your Excellency, that the army marched from their camp near Peekskill on the morning of the 2d, without either tents or baggage, and reached Valentine’s Hill, about four miles on this side of Kingsbridge, a little after daylight the morning following.
General Lincoln, with a detachment of eight hundred men, fell down the North River in boats, landed near Phillips’s House before daylight on the morning of the 3d, and took possession of the ground on this side of Haerlem River, near where Fort Independence formerly stood. This movement was principally intended to support and favor an enterprise, which I had projected against a corps of refugees under the command of Colonel Delancey at Morrisania, and other light troops without the bridge, and which was to have been executed by the Duke de Lauzun with his own legion, Colonel Sheldon’s regiment, and a detachment of State troops of Connecticut under the command of Brigadier-General Waterbury. The Duke, notwithstanding the heat of the day of the 2d, marched from Ridgbury, in Connecticut, and reached East Chester very early the next morning; but, upon his arrival there, finding by the firing that General Lincoln had been attacked, and the alarm given, he desisted from the further prosecution of his plan (which could only have been executed to any effect by surprise), and marched to the General’s support, who continued skirmishing with the enemy and endeavoring to draw them so far into the country, that the Duke might turn their right and cut them off from their work on the east side of Haerlem River, and also prevent their repassing that river in boats. General Parsons had possessed the heights immediately commanding Kingsbridge, and could have prevented their escape by that passage. Every endeavor of this kind proved fruitless; for I found, upon going down myself to reconnoitre their situation, that all their force, except very small parties of observation, had retired to York Island. This afforded General Duportail and myself the most favorable opportunity of perfecting reconnoitring the works upon the north end of the Island, and making observations, which may be of very great advantage in future. Finding nothing further could be done, I returned the day before yesterday to this ground, where I expect to be joined this day by his Excellency the Count de Rochambeau, who reached North Castle the 2d instant.
I cannot too warmly express the obligations I am under to the Count, for the readiness with which he detached the Duke de Lauzun, and for the rapidity with which he pushed the march of his main body, that he might have been within supporting distance, had any favorable stroke upon the enemy below given us an opportunity of pursuing any advantage, which might have been gained. General Lincoln had five or six men killed and about thirty wounded in his skirmish.
I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE.
Head-Quarters, nearDobbs’s Ferry,
My Dear Marquis,
Since my last I have received your letters of the 10th, 18th and 28 of June.
I sincerely congratulate you on the favorable turn of affairs announced in your last, and I hope you will be enabled to maintain that superiority, which you seem to be gaining ever Lord Cornwallis. We have had a variety of reports of General Greene’s further successes in South Carolina. By some we are told, that both Augusta and Ninety-Six have fallen, but in a letter, which I have just received from Monsieur Marbois, he says that Augusta has been taken, and the siege of Ninety-Six raised. Count de Rochambeau formed a junction with me at this camp, (about twelve miles from Kingsbridge,) a few days ago. We are waiting for reinforcements for the Continental line, and of militia, and are in the mean time establishing our communication at Dobbs’s Ferry.
I shall shortly have occasion to communicate matters of very great importance to you, so much so, that I shall send a confidential officer on purpose to you. You will in the mean time endeavor to draw together as respectable a body of Continental troops as you possibly can, and take every measure to augment your cavalry. Should the enemy confine themselves to the lower country, you will no doubt pay attention to the formation of magazines above. These will be in every case essential, whether the war continues in Virginia, or whether it will still be carried on in South Carolina. Should General Greene come into Virginia in person, you will be good enough to communicate the foregoing to him.
In the present situation of affairs, it is of the utmost importance that a communication by a chain of expresses should be opened between this army and that in Virginia. They are already established from hence to Philadelphia, and if there is none from you to Philadelphia, you will be pleased to take measures for having it done. You will also endeavor to establish such a communication with the coast, as to be able to know whether any troops are detached by sea from Lord Cornwallis’s army; for it is more than probable, that, if he finds himself baffled in attempting to overrun Virginia, he will take a strong post at Portsmouth, or Williamsburg, and reinforce New York or South Carolina. Should any detachment be made, you will transmit to me the earliest intelligence. What you say in confidence of the conduct of a certain officer shall be kept a profound secret, and I will contrive means of removing him from the quarter where he is so unpopular.
The Rhode Island regiment is so thinly officered, that Colonel Olney wishes one of the subs. of the light company may be suffered to return, when Captain Olney joins. You will act in this as circumstances may permit. You have the compliments and good wishes of all your friends in the French army. Those of the American are not behindhand with them. With the warmest affection and esteem, I am, &c.
TO THE SUPERINTENDENT OF FINANCE.
Head-Quarters, nearDobbs’s Ferry,
Your favors of the 2d and 5th instant have afforded me infinite satisfaction, as the measures you are pursuing for subsisting the army perfectly accord with my ideas, and are, I am certain, the only ones, which can secure us from distress or the constant apprehensions of it.1 Had magazines of any consequence been formed in the different States, in pursuance of the late requisitions of Congress, the disposal of the articles collected at a distance from the army would have merited your attention; but so little has been done in that way, that I imagine you will not think the matter worthy of notice, when I inform you of the trifling quantities which remain on hand. Of flour no magazines have been formed at any place. Of salt meat none was put up in Pennsylvania, Jersey, or New York. There had been, by estimate, seven or eight thousand barrels of meat and fish put up in Connecticut, of which between two and three thousand have come forward, and the remainder is, I believe, in motion. Massachusetts put up very little salt meat, and most of it has been consumed upon the communication by the recruits, or transported to Albany. Rhode Island purchased one thousand barrels, of which about six hundred remain at Providence, and I would wish them to be still kept there for a particular purpose. I could never learn, with certainty, how much was put up in New Hampshire; but I have directed all that was at Portsmouth to be transported by water to Providence, as I wish to form a small magazine of salt provision at that place, as I mentioned before, for a particular purpose. No magazines of rum have been formed. We have been in a manner destitute of that necessary article, and what we are now likely to draw from the several States will be from hand to mouth. From the foregoing state of facts you will perceive in how small a degree the requisitions of Congress have been complied with, and may form a judgment of the miserable manner in which the army has been subsisted.
Having lately, at the request of the Board of War, furnished them with my opinion of the quantity of provision, which ought to be laid up at the several posts, they will be able, at the interview which you propose to have with them, to lay before you my ideas upon the subject of a contract for supplying the army. I beg you to be assured, that I never can think your correspondence tedious or troublesome. Duty as well as inclination will always prompts me to listen with pleasure to your observations upon the state of our public affairs; and I shall think myself happy, if I can in any manner contribute to assist you in the arduous task you have undertaken. I shall very anxiously wait for the visit, which you promise to make me. I am, with very sincere respect and esteem, &c.
P. S. Will it be possible upon a sudden emergency to procure from 2,000 to 2,500 barrels of salt beef or pork at Philadelphia, in such case what may be at Providence or New Hampshire may be disposed of and go towards payment of that in Philadelphia. We have no news of the ship Lafayette; about 3,000 suits of clothes have arrived at Boston from Spain, but unfortunately the coats are scarlet.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL LORD STIRLING.
Head Quarters, nearDobbs’s Ferry,
While I am with the detachment of the army below, you will remain in command here. Your principal attention will be paid to the good order of the camp, and the security of the baggage and stores left in it. There will be no need of advanced pickets, as you will be fully covered in front. The camp guards should be vigilant, and the officers commanding them see that the men are not permitted to straggle, or to plunder the baggage of the officers and soldiers.
The greatest harmony having hitherto subsisted between the French and American soldiers, your Lordship will be particularly careful to see that it is not interrupted by any act of imprudence on our part; and, as Major-General the Baron Vioménil, who will command the French line, is older in commission than your Lordship, you will take the parole and countersign from him daily. It is scarcely probable that the enemy will make any attempt upon the camp, while so respectable a force is near their own lines. Should they do it, it must be by water. The officer commanding the water-guard will communicate any movement to Colonel Greaton at Dobbs’s Ferry, who will give immediate intelligence to you, which you will of course transmit to Baron Vioménil. The party at Dobbs’s Ferry being for the purpose of erecting a work there, they are not to be withdrawn for camp duties. I am, &c.
TO RICHARD HENRY LEE1 .
Camp, nearDobbs’s Ferry, 15 July, 1781.
The moving state wch. the army was at the time your letter of the 12th ulto. came to hand, the junction of the allied troops at that period, and a variety of matters which have occurred since that period consequent of this junction, rather than a disinclination to continue a correspondence, the benefits of which were in my favor, must plead as an excuse for my silence till now. Unconscious of having given you just cause to change the favorable sentiments you have expressed for me, I could not suppose you had altered them; and as I never suffer reports, unsupported by proofs, to have weight in my mind, I know no reason why our correspondence should cease, or become less frequent than heretofore, excepting on my part, that, as our affairs became more perplexing and embarrassd. the public claimed more of my attention and consequently left me less leizure for private indulgences.
That this has been the case in an eminent degree for some time past a Gentleman so well acquainted with public matters as you are, need not be told. The distresses of Virginia I am but too well acquainted with; but the plan you have suggested as a relief for it is, in my judgmt., a greater proof of your unbounded confidence in me, than it is, that the means proposed would be found adequate to the end in view, were it practicable to make the experiment, which at present is not, as there are insuperable obstacles to my removing from the immediate command of the combined troops.
The reasons for this opinion I cannot entrust to paper, at all times liable to miscarriage, and peculiarly so of late. I am fully persuaded, however, (upon good military principles,) that the measures I have adopted will give more effectual and speedier relief to the State of Virginia, than if I was to march thither with dictatorial powers, at the head of every man I could draw from hence, without leaving the important posts on the North River quite defenceless, and these States open to devastation and ruin. When I say this, I would be understood to mean, if I am properly supported (and I have asked no extraordinary succors) by the States Eastward of Jersey inclusive. My present operation, and which I have been preparing for with all the zeal and activity in my power, will, I am morally certain, if I am properly supported, produce one of two things; either the fall of New York, or a withdrawal of the Troops from Viginia excepting a Garrison at Portsmouth, at which place, I have no doubt of the enemy’s intention to establish a permanent post. A long land march, in which, we have never failed to dissipate half our men, the difficulty and expense of transportation, and other reasons not less powerful, but wch I dare not commit to writing, decided me in my present plan; and my hopes, I trust, will not be disappointed.
In half an hour’s conversation I could, I flatter myself, convince you of the utility of my meases.; but, as I have before observed, I dare not attempt it by letter, because I have already had two or three important ones intercepted in the mails, the sight of which, I am persuaded, occasioned the retrogade movemts. of Lord Cornwallis, and will be the means of bringing part of his force to New York, to the accomplishment of one part of my plan. The fatal policy of short enlistmts. (the primary cause of all our misfortunes—the prolongation of the War—and the source of the immense debt under which we labor—) is now shedding its baneful influence upon our measures and I am laboring under all the disadvantages and evils which result from them and the want of men.—It can be no News to tell you, that by the expiration of the terms of enlistment I was left last Winter with a force so much reduced as to be scarcely able to garrison West point; but, it may be News, and is not less true than surprizing to you to hear that not half the men which were required to be with the Army, as recruits for the Continental Battns., by the first day of Jany. last are yet arrived—and of those asked by me from the Militia not one is come.
But a few words more, and I will put an end to this long letter.
No endeavors of mine have been wanting to obtain a naval superiority in these seas, nor to employ that which we have to valuable purposes. How far I have succeeded in the latter is but too obvious; how far I may see my wishes accomplished in the former, time must discover, With great esteem and regard, I am, dear Sir, &c.1
QUESTIONS AND REPLIES.
Questions by Rochambeau.
The Count de Barras in his Letter of the 13th instant, and Mr. De Choisy, in his Letter of the 15th demand both of them, Mr. De Choisy by the desire of the Count de Barras, What is to be the definitive plan of operations that his Excellency General Washington has fixed on that they may make it known to the Count de Grasse, on his arrival in these Seas, and so, enable of him to concur with us. I beg of his Excellency to fix on the answer that I am to send to them and at the same time it will enable me to make beforehand the necessary preparations for the corps of Troops that I command.
Answers by G. W.
It is next to impossible at this moment, circumstanced as we are & laboring under uncertainties, to fix a definitive plan for the Campaign—definitive measures must depend upon circumstances at the Time of the Arrival of the Count de Grasse,—particularly on the following—
1st. The situation of the Enemy at that moment.
2d. On the succors he shall bring with him—or on the Force we shall have collected by that Period.
3d. On the Operation & Advantages wch. may be gained by the Fleet in the moment of its Arrival.
and 4th. On the Continuance of the Fleet upon & probability of its maintaing. its decisive Superiority whilst it is here.
Let us suppose that the Count de Grasse does not look on it as practicable to force Sandy hook, and that he does not bring with him any Land troops:
In these two cases which appear very likely, because on one hand, the Seamen look on Sandy hook bar, as impossible to force, and on the other hand because the Court of France makes no mention of any troops to be brought here by the Count de Grasse, in the Letters that inform us of his arrival here—in these two cases, Does his Excellency think that with an Army which, joined to the French corps, will not be much more numerous than the Troops that defend New York, it will be possible to undertake with success something against that place.
If the Fleet of Count de Grasse should be late in it arriving to this Coast—if the Count should not think it prudent to attempt forcing the Passage of the Hook—or fail in making the Attempt—if he should bring no land Troops with him, & the American Force should not be considerably augmented—I am of Opinion, that under these Circumstances we ought to throw a sufficient Garrison into W. Point, leave some Continental Troops & Militia to cover the Country contiguous to N. York, & transport the Remainder (both French & American) to Virginia, should the Enemy still keep a Force there. The Season & other Circumstances will admit of late Operations in that Quarter. To be prepared for such an Event, I think it highly expedient that Mr. Barras should hold all his Transports in the utmost Readiness to take the Detachment under Mr. De Choisy & the heavy Artillery at Providence on Board, & sail with them to meet the Troops either in Delaware or Chesapeake, as may be ultimately agreed upon.
If his Excellency does not look on it as practicable to risk it, could not the operations be directed against Virginia, Mr. de Grasse be sent to Chesapeak bay and bring there the detachment of Mr. De Choisy, and a part of his Excellency’s army or the French corps march as far as Elk river, where the Count de Grasse being master in Chesapeak bay would come to convoy him? Would not we be then in a condition to undertake with Success on Lord Cornwallis and force him to evacuate Virginia. That march of the French troops would need to be prepared beforehand. It would be necessary that Count de Barras carry wtth him our Siege Artillery, and bring with him all the Transports necessary to the passage of the French corps in the Bay of Chesapeak.
Le Ct. de Rochambeau.
But should the Fleet arrive in Season—not be limited to a short stay & should it be able to force the Harbor of N. York, & in addition to all these, should find the British Force in a divided State,—I am of Opinion that the Enterprise against N. York & its Dependencies shou’d be our primary object.
To prevent the Enemy from a possibility of formg. a Junction & to lay a Foundation for their Ruin, I was anxious that Count de Barras, if he tho’t the Departure of the Royal Oak had given him naval superiority, should sail for Chesapeak, an Event if the Superiority is onhis Side, I devoutly wish as I am of Opinion that much Good & no Evil can result from it.—The Reasons which induce the Count to decline that Measure, have been communicated by him to your Excellency & to me by Letter.
Upon the whole I do not see what more can be done than to prosecute the Plan agreed to at Weathersfield—& to recommend it to the Count de Grasse to come immediately to Sandy Hook & if possible possess the Harbor of N. York at the Moment of his Arrival and then form a full View & Consideration of the Circumstances which exist form a definitive plan of Campaign upon the surest grounds.
Camp at Dobbs’ Ferry,
TO BRIGADIER-GENERAL WATERBURY.
Head-Quarters, 21 July, 1781.
The army will make a movement this evening. You will march your corps on the same route, and in such time and manner as to be at East Chester between daybreak and sunrise, as directed in my letter of the 14th. Your troops should be supplied, (if possible,) with three days’ cooked provisions; and the movement of the army, as well as of your troops, must be kept a secret until the moment you march.1
In order to prevent the enemy from obtaining any intelligence whatever from us, I have ordered small parties to waylay all the roads from the North River to East Chester. I must request you will send an active subaltern and twenty men with good guides early this afternoon across the fields and woods from your encampment to some good position for an ambuscade, on the side of the road leading from New Rochelle to East Chester, as near the latter as may be without hazard of discovery. This party must remain perfectly concealed, with orders to apprehend all persons going towards Kingsbridge. It is essential that your party should not be seen by any inhabitant, as this might frustrate the very object of our precautions. You will be convinced, Sir, by your own experience and good sense, that the pro-foundest secrecy is absolutely necessary in all military matters, and in no instance more indispensably so, than in movements towards the enemy’s lines. I am, &c.
P. S. After you have given all the necessary orders, I could wish you would come to head-quarters and dine with me, as I may have many things to communicate personally to you.
TO THOMAS McKEAN, PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.1
Head-Quarters, nearDobbs’s Ferry,
I have been honored by your Excellency’s three letters of the 14th and 17th of this month, with the several resolutions of Congress, and the extracts from intercepted letters enclosed. I am much obliged by your attention in the communication of the extracts, although I had been favored with them through another channel, previous to the receipt of your favors. The intelligence to be collected from them, if properly improved, I think may turn greatly to our advantage.2
I take this opportunity most sincerely to congratulate you, Sir, on the honor conferred upon you by Congress, in being elected to preside in that most respectable body. Happy, as I expect to be in your correspondence, I dare say I shall have no reason to complain of the mode of your conducting it, as from a knowledge of your character I flatter myself it will ever be performed with great propriety. I take the liberty, however, to request as a particular favor, that you will be so good as to convey to me, as you have opportunity, any interesting intelligence, which you may receive either from Europe, or respecting our Continental affairs. Your situation will put it particularly in your power to oblige me in this request, and be assured, Sir, that a greater obligation cannot be conferred; since, for want of communication in this way, I have often been left in the dark in matters, which essentially concern the public welfare, and which, if known, might be very influential in the government of my conduct in the military line.
I am very happy to be informed, by accounts from all parts of the continent, of the agreeable prospect of a very plentiful supply of almost all the productions of the earth. Blessed as we are with the bounties of Providence, necessary for our support and defence, the fault must surely be our own, (and great indeed will it be,) if we do not by a proper use of them obtain the noble prize for which we have been so long contending, the establishment of peace, liberty and independence. I am, dear Sir, &c.
TO JOHN PARKE CUSTIS.
Dobbs’s Ferry, July 25, 1781.
Your letter of the 11th covering certain proposals which were made by you to Mr. Robt. Alexander came safe by the last Post. I read the letter with attention, and think they are founded on principles of liberality and Justice as far as I can form a judgment without seeing the mortgage, or having recourse to the original agreement, and the missives which may have passed between you.
How far the purchase on your part, and the sale on Alexander’s, was a matter of speculation at the time of bargaining, you yourselves and the nature of the agreement can alone determine. If, from the tenor of your contract, you were to pay paper money—if this paper money was at that time in a depreciated state, and the difference between it and specie fixed and known,—and if, moreover, Alexander, like many others, entertained an opinion that it would again appreciate, and a paper dollar become equal in value to a silver one—it might be more just than generous, (as the money is, in fact, worth little or nothing now) to let him abide the consequences of his opinion by paying him in depreciated paper; because the presumption is that he would have made no allowance for appreciation, tho’ the former should be of equal value with the latter, pound for pound. But this, as I have before observed, depends upon the nature of the bargain, and the light in which the matter was understood at the time it was made by both parties.
If the bargain was unaccompanied by particular circumstances, had no explanatory meaning, but simply imported that so much money was to be given for so much land, to be paid on or before a certain period, it is certainly optional in you to discharge it at any time you please short of that period. But I conceive that this can only be done by an actual tender of the money, and that there is no legal obligatn. or tye upon Alexr. to take your bond (with any security whatever) but the fear of losing the original debt, or the Interest of it, by refusing the tender you propose to make him of £48,000 at this time; because I hold it as a maxim that no man can be compelled to change the nature of his debt, or alter the security of it, without his own consent.
I have before said, that, for want of the mortgage, and a knowledge of all the circumstances attending your bargain, it is impossible for me to give a decided opinion. Your proposals appear to be fair and equitable; but what views Alexander may have had, and how far he is prepared to support himself in those views, by written or other valid proof, I am unable to say. As an honest man, he ought to be content with justice, and justice I think you have offered him.
You may recollect that I disliked the terms of your bargain when they were 1st communicated to me, and wished then that you might not find them perplexing and disadvantageous in the end; as I now do, that you may settle the matter with honor and satisfaction to yourself.
It gave me pain to hear that you had been so much afflicted with sickness among your People, and that you thought your son in danger. It would give me equal pleasure to learn that he and the rest of your family were restored to perfect health. That so few of our countrymen have joined the enemy is a circumstance as pleasing to me as it must be mortifyingly convincing to them of the fallacy of their assertion, that ⅔ of the people were in their Intert. and ready to join them when opportunity offered. Had this been the case, the marquis’s force, and the other ⅓, must have abandoned the country.
I am much pleased with your choice of a governor. He is an honest man—active, spirited, and decided, and will, I am persuaded, suit the times as well as any person in the State.1 You were lucky, considering the route by which the enemy retreated to Williamsburg, to sustain so little damage. I am of opinion that Lord Cornwallis will establish a strong post at Portsmouth, detach part of his force to New York, and go with the residue to So. Carolina.
I returned yesterday from reconnoitring (with Count de Rochambeau and the engineers of both armies) the enemy’s works near Kingsbridge; we lay close by them two days and a night, without any attempt on their part to prevent it. They kept up a random cannonade, but to very little effect. I am waiting impatiently for the men the States (this way) have been called upon for, that I may determine my plan and commence my operations.
My best wishes attend Nelly Custis (who I hope is perfectly recovered) and the little girls. My complimts. await inquiring friends, and I am,
Sincerely and affectionately, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL GREENE.
Head-Quarters, nearDobbs’s Ferry,
My Dear Sir,
With peculiar satisfaction I do myself the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your several favors, of the 10th, 14th and 16th of May last, with that of the 22d June, and to assure you at the same time, that it is with the warmest pleasure I express my full approbatinn of the various movements and operations, which your military conduct has lately exhibited; while I confess to you that I am unable to conceive what more could have been done under your circumstances, than has been displayed by your little persevering and determined army. Lord Rawdon’s reinforcement from England was a most untoward circumstance; but even this, I hope, will soon be surmounted by your good fortune.
You will be informed from the Marquis, of every circumstance that has taken place in Virginia. A detachment from the army of this brave and fortunate young nobleman will, I hope, soon arrive to your assistance in Carolina.
By our movements in this quarter, and the main army taking a position near to New York, and making every preparation for a serious attempt upon that place, we have already produced a happy effect, that of a withdraw of considerable part of the troops under the command of Lord Cornwallis as a reinforcement to their garrison, which has been some time past closely confined to York Island. This withdraw will probably disappoint their views of conquest in Virginia, and will exceedingly embarrass the prospects of the British ministry in the proposed treaty opened at Vienna.1 This is a very great object, even should any thing prevent our obtaining further success in our operations against New York.
The operating force of the enemy in the southern States being confined in all probability to South Carolina, will leave the other States in a condition to afford you such succors as, with the aid of the Marquis’s detachment, will, I hope, enable you to fulfil your hopes and wishes in their utmost extent in your command. Should this event take place, you may be assured, that, added to the consideration of the public good which will result therefrom, honor that will be thereby reflected on your own person, will afford me the highest satisfaction. I sincerely wish we had the means of communicating more frequently with each other than has been lately experienced. Be assured, Sir, my concern for your honor and welfare interests me most particularly in every event which attends you.
A particular reason, which cannot at this time be communicated, induces me to request that you will be pleased to give me the earliest and most minute information of every event, that takes place with you, and a circumstantial detail of the present situation of the State of South Carolina, its strength and operative force, with its resources for the support of an army, and the extent of those resources, with the places where they may be collected and secured; also the strength, position, and circumstances attending the enemy’s force. I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE.
Head Quarters, nearDobbs Ferry,
My Dear Marquis,
I take your private letter of the 20th of this month in the light which you wish it, that of an unreserved communication from one friend to another; and I should be wanting in candor, were I not to expose my sentiments to you in as free a manner. I am convinced, that your desire to be with this army arises principally from a wish to be actively useful. You will not, therefore, regret your stay in Virginia until matters are reduced to a greater degree of certainty, than they are at present, especially when I tell you, that, from the change of circumstances with which the removal of part of the enemy’s force from Virginia to New York will be attended, it is more than probable, that we shall also entirely change our plan of operations. I think we have already effected one part of the plan of the campaign settled at Weathersfield; that is, giving a substantial relief to the southern States, by obliging the enemy to recall a considerable part of their force from thence. Our views must now be turned towards endeavoring to expel them totally from those States, if we find ourselves incompetent to the siege of New York. The difficulty of doing this does not so much depend upon obtaining a force capable of effecting it, as upon the mode of collecting that force to the proper point, and transporting the provisions, stores, &c., necessary for such an operation. You are fully acquainted with the almost impracticability of doing this by land; to say nothing of the amazing loss of men always occasioned by long marches, and those towards a quarter in which the service is disagreeable. I should not, however, hesitate to encounter these difficulties, great as they are, had we not prospects of transporting ourselves in a manner safe, easy, and expeditious. Your penetration will point out my meaning, which I cannot venture to express in direct terms.1
I approve of your resolution to reinforce General Greene, in proportion to the detachment which the enemy may make to New York. Let your next attention be paid to training and forming the militia, with which you may be furnished, and disposing of them in such a manner, that they may be drawn at the shortest notice to whatever point the enemy make their capital post, and which I conclude will be at Portsmouth. The establishment of magazines at safe deposits will be in all cases necessary; but, above all things, I recommend an augmentation of your cavalry to as great a height as possible. It may happen, that the enemy may be driven to the necessity of forcing their way through North Carolina to avoid a greater misfortune. A superiority of horse on our side would be fatal to them in such a case.
The advantages resulting from a move of the French fleet from Newport to Chesapeake were early and strongly pointed out to Count de Barras, and I thought he had once agreed to put it into execution; but, by his late letters, he seemed to think that such a manœuvre might interfere with greater plans, and therefore he declined it. It would now be too late to answer the principal object, as, by accounts from a deserter, the troops arrived from Virginia last Friday.1
Should your return to this army be finally determined, I cannot flatter you with a command equal to your expectations or my wishes. You know the over proportion of general officers to our numbers, and can therefore conceive where the difficulty will lie. General McDougall is not yet provided for, and the Jersey and York troops are reserved for him. They are promised to him, though they have not yet joined.
In my letter to General Greene, which I beg the favor of you to forward, I have hinted nothing of what I have said to you, for fear of a miscarriage. You will probably find a safe opportunity from your army to him, and you will oblige me by communicating the part of this letter, which relates to my expectation of being able to transport part of the army to the southward, should the operation against New York be declined.
I wish, as I mentioned in my last, to send a confidential person to you to explain at large what I have so distantly hinted; but I am really at a loss, for want of knowing the officers better, to find one upon whose discretion I can depend. My own family, you know, are constantly and fully employed. I however hope, that I have spoken plain enough to be understood by you. With every sentiment of affection and regard, I am, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Head Quarters, nearDobbs Ferry,
Congress will readily conceive the disagreeable situation in which I find myself, when they are informed, that I am not stronger at this advanced period of the Campaign than when the Army first moved out of their Winter Quarters. Justice to my own feelings and Character requires that I should lay before that Honorable Body a summary of the measures I have taken to obtain reinforcements, and inform them, likewise, of the little success with which my requisitions have hitherto been attended.
I shall not go back to the date of the Requisition of October last to the several States, which was made in consequence of the new regulation of the Army, and went to the number of men called for by that arrangement. It will be sufficient to say, that the Recruits sent in were comparatively small in proportion to the deficiencies, as may be seen from the Returns which I have from time to time transmitted to Congress.
I will begin with the transactions subsequent to the Conference I had with Count de Rochambeau at Weathersfield in May, when a plan of operations was concerted, and the inclosure No. 1 written to the States of New Hampshire—Massachusetts Bay—Rhode Island and Connecticut. Letters similar to the foregoing were written, upon my return to New Windsor, to the other States as far as Pennsylvania inclusive, from which last, 1600 Militia were required. But it having been found that that State had been called upon by Congress to send 2400 Militia to Virginia, I withdrew my request, and apportioned the number asked of them to the other States—requiring only a Corps of 300 Riflemen from Pennsylvania.
Being very desirous of getting my force (especially the Continental Troops) together as soon as possible, or in other words, by the time I could prepare Boats, collect Stores, &c., I wrote the letter No. 2 to the States of New Jersey—Connecticut—Massachusetts and New Hampshire, with this variation in respect to Connecticut; that I desired 800 of her Militia might be sent without loss of time to Westpoint, that I might be thereby enabled to withdraw part of the Continental Garrison from that post for Field Service—and as I found that I should be under the absolute necessity of calling down Hazen’s and the two Continental Battalions of New York, which had been sent up for the security of the Northern Frontier, I, upon the 25th of June, wrote to His Excellency Govr. Hancock, and to the officers Commanding the Militia in the Western parts of Massachusetts, and requested that 600 (part of the quota asked for) might be marched without loss of time to Albany to replace the Continental Troops drawn from that Quarter. Notwithstanding this, by my last letters from Brigr. Genl. Clinton dated at Albany the 20th ulto. not a single Man had come in from Massachusetts, and by a Return from General McDougall commanding at Westpoint, only 176 from Connecticut had arrived at that post yesterday. In short, not a single Militia man from any State has joined the Army, except the few just mentioned—about 80 Line of New York and about 200 State Troops of Connecticut, both of which were upon the Line previous to my leaving our Winter Cantonment.
The inclosure No. 3 exhibits a Return of all the Recruits which have joined the Continental Battalions in this Army since the rearrangement of them. The numbers which have joined in the course of last month are particularly designated.
The General Return for June, which I have lately sent by Capt. Roberts to the Board of War, furnishes a state of the Army up to the 1st of July. To this is to be added the Recruits which have joined since—and a deduction is to be made for the Casualties of July.
For the better understanding the General Return, it may not be amiss to remark, that the Light Infantry with the Marquis de la Fayette are included in the Column “upon Command.” As are the Boatmen—Waggoners—extra Artificers—small detached Guards for various purposes—Waiters and Laborers in the Quarter Master’s and Commissary’s departments, in the same Column, and that designated on “extra service.” All which being deducted from the total exhibits an Army upon paper, rather than an operating Force.
I have in vain endeavored to remedy this Monstrous deduction: But the Civil departments having been totally destitute of Money, have been unable to hire or pay the Men necessary for their uses, and I have therefore been obliged to spare them from the Line to prevent a total stagnation of business.
While I think it my duty faithfully to draw this picture, disagreeable as it is, both for the full information of Congress and my own justification, it becomes incumbent upon me to add, that I shall exert my utmost abilities so to improve the means with which I may be furnished, that the present Campaign, if not decisive, may be, not inglorious, but in some degree advantageous to America.
I have again written in the most pressing manner to the States as your Excellency will find by the inclosure No. 4, of equal date with this. I flatter myself it will have some avail, but I am at all events happy in thinking, that one of the ends proposed by the plan of operations concerted at Weathersfield will take effect—that of obliging the enemy to recall a considerable force from the Southward to support New York.
It is with pleasure I assure your Excellency that, by great exertions and powerful aids from the States of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, the heavy Artillery—Stores, &c., many of which were also lent by those States, have come on to the North River in a manner beyond my expectation. Those from Pennsylvania are halted at Philadelphia till my prospects of obtaining Men are more encouraging. I thought it best to do this, that I might not to have to transport them back again, or be encumbered with them here, should we not be able to prosecute offensive operations.
I have also the pleasure to inform you, that vigorous exertions are making by the four New England States to furnish a competent supply of Beef Cattle. I have, &c.
P. S. I informed your Excellency in my last, that by the account of a Deserter, part of the Troops had arrived at New York from Virginia. This is contradicted by others who have come out since, who say that troops are expected from that quarter.1
CIRCULAR LETTER TO STATES.
Head Quarters, nearDobbs’ Ferry,
I regret being obliged to inform you, that I find myself, at this late period, very little stronger than I was when the army first moved out of their quarters. Of the militia, which were required of the State of New Hampshire, and which were to have joined me by the 14th of last month, none have come in, and of the levies for the continental battalions, only thirteen in the course of the last month. The reinforcements from the other States have been very inconsiderable.
I leave you to judge of the delicate and embarrassed situation in which I stand at this moment. Unable to advance, with prudence, beyond my present position, while, perhaps, in the general opinion, my force is equal to the commencement of operations against New York, my conduct must appear, if not blameable, highly mysterious, at least. Our allies, with whom a junction has been formed upwards of three weeks, and who were made to expect, from the engagements which I entered into with them at Weathersfield in May last, a very considerable augmentation of our force by this time, instead of seeing a prospect of advancing, must conjecture, upon good grounds, that the campaign will waste fruitlessly away. I shall just remark, that it will be no small degree of triumph to our enemies, and will have a very pernicious influence upon our friends in Europe, should they find such a failure of resource; or such a want of energy to draw it out, that our boasted and expensive operations end only in idle parade.
I cannot yet but persuade myself, and I do not discontinue to encourage our allies with a hope that our force will still be sufficient to carry our intended operation into effect, or if we cannot fully accomplish that, to oblige the enemy to withdraw part of their force from the southward to support New York, and which, as I informed you in my letter from Weathersfield, was part of our plan.
You must be sensible, Sir, that the fulfilment of my engagements must depend upon the degree of vigor with which the executives of the several States exercise the powers with which they have been vested, and enforce the laws lately passed for filling up, and supplying the army. In full confidence that the means which have been voted will he obtained, I shall continue my preparations: but I must take the liberty of informing you that it is essentially necessary I should be made acquainted immediately on the receipt of this, of the number of continental levies and militia which have been forwarded and what are the prospects of obtaining the remainder.
I will further add, that it will be equally necessary to see that the monthly quota of provisions stipulated at the meeting of the commissioners at Providence is regularly complied with. I am, &c.
TO THE SUPERINTENDENT OF FINANCE.
* * * * * *
The expectation of the pleasure of seeing you has prevented me hitherto from making a communication of a most important and interesting nature. But circumstances will not admit of further delay, and I must trust it to paper. It seems reduced almost to a certainty, that the enemy will reinforce New York with part of their troops from Virginia. In that case, the attempt against the former must be laid aside, as it will not be in our power to draw together a force sufficient to justify the undertaking. The detachment, which the enemy will probably leave in Virginia, seems the next object which ought to engage our attention, and which will be a very practicable one, should we obtain a naval superiority, of which I am not without hopes, and be able to carry a body of men suddenly round by water. The principal difficulty, which occurs, is obtaining transports at the moment they may be wanted; for, if they are taken up beforehand, the use for which they are designed cannot be concealed, and the enemy will make arrangements to defeat the plan.
What I would therefore wish you to inform yourself of, without making a direct inquiry, is what number of tons of shipping could be obtained in Philadelphia at any time between this and the 20th of this month, and whether there could also be obtained at the same time a few deep-waisted sloops and schooners proper to carry horses. The number of double-decked vessels, which may be wanted, of two hundred tons and upwards, will not exceed thirty. I shall be glad of your answer as soon as possible, because, if it is favorable, I can direct certain preparations to be made in Philadelphia and at other convenient places, without incurring any suspicions. There certainly can be no danger of not obtaining flour in Philadelphia; and as you seem to have doubts of procuring salt meat there, I shall direct all that which is at the eastward to be collected at places from whence it may be shipped upon the shortest notice. You will also oblige me by giving me your opinion of the number of vessels, which might be obtained at Baltimore, or other places in Chesapeake, in the time before mentioned or thereabouts.
I have the honor to be, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
I do myself the honor to inform Congress, through your Excellency, that, at a late meeting between the American and British commissaries of prisoners, it has been proposed by the latter to go into a full exchange of Lieutenant-General Burgoyne and all the remaining officers of convention (by composition where ranks will not apply) for the remainder of our officers in this quarter, and after them for those taken at the southward. One of the terms insisted upon is, that the prisoners surrendered by the capitulation of the Cedars, to the amount of four hundred and forty-three, shall be allowed.
I have not thought myself at liberty to accept of these proposals without the concurrence of Congress, for the following reasons; that I imagine our minister at the court of Versailles has been already directed to propose the exchange of Lieutenant-General Burgoyne for the Honorable Mr. Laurens1 ; that I do not know whether it would be agreeable to Congress to release the whole of the convention officers, before they have obtained a settlement for the subsistence of those troops; and lastly because the refusal of the ratification of the convention of the Cedars has never been repealed.
I would beg leave to remark on the two last, that the exchange of our full colonels can never be obtained but by composition, and that it is better to effect this by a composition for inferior officers than for men, because the enemy gain no reinforcement by such mode. To relieve the full colonels in this quarter only, & who, all but one, have been prisoners since 1777, would take seven hundred privates. Should the security for the convention debt still be urged, I would answer, that we may perhaps deceive ourselves in supposing that the balance upon a general settlement, for the subsistence of all prisoners since the commencement of the war, will be much in our favor. I am inclined to think we shall find it the contrary, and owing to this, the British have constantly kept their accounts with accuracy, and have vouchers ready to support them. We, on the other hand, shall be found very deficient on that score; indeed, I fear almost totally so, except in the instance of the convention troops and prisoners of war latterly.
Congress will judge of the expediency of repealing their act respecting the convention of the Cedars upon the present occasion. Mr. Skinner, the commissary-general of prisoners, will have the honor of delivering this to your Excellency. I shall be obliged by an answer to several points contained in it, at his return, that I may instruct him accordingly.
I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE.
My Dear Marquis,
I have received your letters of the 26th and 30th ultimo and 1st instant. I cannot learn that any troops have yet arrived at New York from Virginia. A fleet of twenty sail came in last Saturday with troops, but they are said to be Hessian recruits from Europe. The Concorde frigate has arrived at Newport from Count de Grasse. He was to leave St. Domingo the 3d of this month, with a fleet of between twenty-five and twenty-nine sail of the line, and a considerable body of land forces. His destination is immediately for the Chesapeake; so that he will either be there by the time this reaches you, or you may look for him every moment. Under these circumstances, whether the enemy remain in full force, or whether they have only a detachment left, you will immediately take such a position as will best enable you to prevent their sudden retreat through North Carolina, which I presume they will attempt the instant they perceive so formidable an armament. Should General Wayne, with the troops destined for South Carolina, still remain in the neighborhood of James River, and the enemy should have made no detachment to the southward, you will detain those troops until you hear from me again, and inform General Greene of the cause of their delay. If Wayne should have marched, and should have gained any considerable distance, I would not have him halted.
You shall hear further from me as soon as I have concerted plans and formed dispositions for sending a reinforcement from hence. In the mean time, I have only to recommend a continuation of that prudence and good conduct, which you have manifested through the whole of your campaign. You will be particularly careful to conceal the expected arrival of the Count; because, if the enemy are not apprized of it, they will stay on board their transports in the Bay, which will be the luckiest circumstance in the world. You will take measures for opening a communication with Count de Grasse the moment he arrives, and will concert measures with him for making the best uses of your joint forces until you receive aid from this quarter.
P. S. I would not wish you to call out a large body of militia upon this occasion, but rather keep those you have compact and ready for service. I am, &c.1
TO THE COUNT DE GRASSE.2
Camp, atPhillipsburg, 17 August, 1781.
In consequence of the despatches received from your Excellency by the frigate La Concorde, it has been judged expedient to give up for the present the enterprise against New York, and turn our attention towards the south, with a view, if we should not be able attempt Charleston itself, to recover and secure the States of Virginia, North Carolina, and the country of South Carolina and Georgia. We may add a further inducement for giving up this first-mentioned enterprise, which is the arrival of a reinforcement of near three thousand Hessian recruits. For this purpose we have determined to remove the whole of the French army, and as large a detachment of the American as can be spared, to Chesapeake, to meet your Excellency there.
The following appear to us the principal cases, which will present themselves, and upon which we shall be obliged ultimately to form our plans. We have therefore stated them with a few short observations upon each. Your Excellency will be pleased to revolve them in your own mind, and prepare your own opinion by the time we shall have the pleasure of meeting you in Virginia.
First, What shall be done, if the enemy should be found with the greater part of their force in Virginia, upon the arrival of the French fleet? Second, Should only a detachment be found there? Thirdly, Should the British force be totally withdrawn from thence?
Upon the first, it appears to us, that we ought, without loss of time, to attack the enemy with our united force.
Upon the second, it appears proper to destine such part of our force as will be amply sufficient to reduce the enemy’s detachment, and then determine what use shall be made of the remainder. And here two things present themselves for our consideration. The enemy will either have sent a greater part of their force from Virginia to New York or to Charleston. If to New York, (which is the least probable under present circumstances,) Charleston will have but a moderate garrison, and it may be possible to attack it to advantage. If to Charleston, then the enemy will be so superior to General Greene, that they will be able to regain the whole of the State of South Carolina, and of consequence Georgia. We therefore think, that, in this latter case, such a force at least should be detached to South Carolina, as will enable us to keep the field and confine the enemy in or near to Charleston.
In the third case, which we stated, we mean that, of supposing the enemy should have totally evacuated Virginia, it appears to us necessary to make a solid establishment at Portsmouth, or any other place if more proper, in order to render a fleet in Chesapeake Bay entirely secure, and to employ the remainder of our land force and such vessels as may be proper for the service, as has been explained in the preceding article; that is, either in the siege of Charleston, if the garrison shall be found sufficiently weak to warrant the attempt, or to cover and secure the country, should it be found otherwise.
Returning back to the enterprise against New York will depend on a number of circumstances, the discussion of which we will leave until we have the happiness of a conference with your Excellency. We have only to observe, that the execution of all or any of the plans, which we have proposed, go upon the supposition of a decided naval superiority; except that of marching a reinforcement into South Carolina.
We would beg leave to take up so much of your Excellency’s time, as to point out to you the vast importance of Charleston, and what advantages the enemy derive from the possession of it. It is the center of their power in the south. By holding it they preserve a dangerous influence throughout the whole State, as it is the only port, and the only place from whence the people can procure those articles of foreign produce, which are essential to their support; and it in great measure serves to cover and keep in subjection the State of Georgia. From thence the enemy can also establish small posts in North Carolina; and, if they maintain a post in Chesapeake, they keep up the appearance of possessing four hundred miles upon the coast, and of consequence have a pretext for setting up claims, which may be very detrimental to the interests of America in European councils.
We are not sufficiently acquainted with the position of Charleston, neither is it necessary at this time to enter into a detail of the proper mode of attacking it, or of the probability which we should have of succeeding. For these we will refer you to Brigadier-General Duportail, commander of the corps of engineers in the service of the United States, who will have the honor of presenting this. This gentleman, having been in Charleston as principal engineer during the greater part of the siege, and in the environs of it as a prisoner of war a considerable time afterwards, had opportunities of making very full observations, which he judiciously improved.
A variety of cases, different from those we have stated, may occur. It is for this reason that we have thought proper to send General Duportail to your Excellency. He is fully acquainted with every circumstance of our affairs in this quarter, and we recommend him to your Excellency as an officer upon whose abilities and in whose integrity you may place the fullest confidence. We would observe, that it will be very essential to the despatch of the business in contemplation, for you to send up to Elk River, at the head of the Chesapeake Bay, all your frigates, transports, and vessels proper for the conveyance of the French and American troops down the bay. We shall endeavor to have as many as can be found in Baltimore and other ports secured, but we have reason to believe they will be very few. We have the honor to be, with the greatest respect, attachment, esteem, &c.1
TO THE SUPERINTENDENT OF FINANCE.
I have in confidence imparted to you the alteration of our late plan, and made you acquainted with our intended operations. Besides the provisions necessary at the Head of Elk to carry the troops down the bay, a very considerable quantity will be wanted in Virginia. I should suppose three hundred barrels of flour, as many of salt meat, and eight or ten hogsheads of rum would be sufficient at Elk. For what will be consumed in Virginia, I imagine the order must be general, as we can neither ascertain the number of men, which will be drawn together, or the time they will be employed.
I have written to the Count de Grasse, and have requested him to send up his light vessels of every kind to Elk; but I would nevertheless wish to have all that may be at Baltimore and the upper parts of the bay secured. I shall therefore be obliged to you to take measures at a proper time for that purpose. When that time will be, and when you shall give orders for the deposit at Elk, I will hereafter inform you. I shall direct the quartermaster in due season to take up all the small craft in Delaware for the purpose of transporting the troops from Trenton to Christeen. Should he have occasion, for advice or assistance from you upon this occasion, I must request you to give him both. I am confident it will be necessary to give the American troops, destined for southern services, one month’s pay in specie. This will amount to about NA dollars. If it will be possible for you to procure this sum, you will infinitely oblige me and will much benefit the service. I shall also stand in need of a sum of specie for secret services, I suppose about five hundred guineas. I am, dear Sir, &c.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL HEATH.
You are to take command of all the troops remaining in this department, consisting of the two regiments of New Hampshire, ten of Massachusetts, and five of Connecticut infantry, the corps of invalids, Sheldon’s legion, the third regiment of artillery, together with all such State troops and militia, as are retained in service, of those which would have been under my own command.
The security of West Point and the posts in the Highlands is to be considered the first object of your attention. In order to effect this, you will make such dispositions as in your judgment the circumstances shall from time to time require; taking care to have as large a supply of salted provisions as possible constantly on hand; to have the fortifications, works, and magazines repaired and perfected as far as may be; to have the garrison at least in all cases kept up to its present strength; to have the minuter arrangements and plans for the defence and support of this important post perfectly understood and vigorously acted upon, in case of any attempt against it. Ample magazines of wood and forage are to be laid in against the approaching winter. The former should be cut on the margin of the river, and transported by water to the garrison. The latter ought to be collected from the country below the lines, in the greatest quantities possible, and deposited in such places as you shall judge proper.
The force now put under your orders, it is presumed, will be sufficient for all the purposes above mentioned; as well as to yield a very considerable protection and cover to the country, without hazarding the safety of the posts in the Highlands. This is to be esteemed, as it respects the friendly inhabitants and resources of the country, an extremely interesting object; but, when compared with the former, of a secondary nature. The protection of the northern and western frontiers of the State of New York, as well as of those parts of that and other States most contiguous and exposed to the ravages and depredations of the enemy, will claim your attention. But, as the contingencies, which are to be expected in the course of the campaign, may be so various, unforeseen, and almost infinite, that no particular line of conduct can be prescribed for them, upon all such occasions you will be governed by your own prudence and discretion, in which the fullest confidence is placed.
Although your general rule of conduct will be to act on the defensive only, yet it is not meant to prohibit you from striking a blow at the enemy’s posts, or detachments, should a fair opportunity present itself.
The most eligible position for your army, in my opinion, will be above (i. e. on the north side of) the Croton; as well for the purpose of supporting the garrison of West Point, as annoying the enemy, and covering the country, as for the security and repose of your troops. Waterbury’s brigade, which may be posted towards the Sound, Sheldon’s corps, the State troops of New York, and other light parties, may occasionally be made use of to hold the enemy in check, and carry on the petite guerre with them; but I would recommend keeping your force as much collected and as compact as the nature of the service will admit, doing by corps instead of detachments whenever it is practicable, and above all exerting yourself most strenuously and assiduously, while the troops are in a camp of repose, to make them perfect in their exercise and manœuvres, and to establish the most regular system of discipline and duty. The good of the service and emulation of corps will, I am persuaded, prompt the officers and men to devote their whole time and attention to the pleasing and honorable task of becoming masters of their profession. The uncertainty, which the present movement of the army will probably occasion with the enemy, ought to be increased by every means in your power, and the deception kept up as long as possible.
It will not be expedient to prevent the militia which were ordered from coming in, until the arrival of the Count de Grasse, or something definite or certain is known from the southward; and even then, circumstances may (but of this you will be advised) render it advisable to keep the enemy at New York in check, to prevent their detaching to reinforce their southern army, or to harass the inhabitants on the seacoast.
The redoubt on the east side of Dobbs’s Ferry is to be dismantled and demolished, the platforms to be taken up and transported up the river, if it can conveniently be done. The blockhouse on the other side to be maintained, or evacuated and destroyed, as you shall think proper. The water-guards and other precautions to prevent a surprise, you will be pleased to take into your consideration, and regulate in such a manner as you shall judge most expedient. You will be pleased, also, to keep me regularly advised of every important event, which shall take place in your department. Given under my hand at Head-Quarters, this 19th day of August, 1781.
P. S. By the act of Congress of the 3d of October, 1780, a return is to be made to them annually on or before the 1st of September of the troops belonging to the several states that requisitions may be made for completing the same. This you will be pleased to have done by the troops under your command. The preservation of the boats is a matter of very great importance to which you will attend. Let all the new boats and such others as are not absolutely necessary and allotted to the service of the garrison, be hauled up and put under the care of a guard so that the person to whom they are committed shall be accountable for every boat. The abuses committed by people belonging to commissioned whale boats on Long Island ought to be enquired into and suppressed especially as Congress have ordered those commissions to be revoked.1
TO ROBERT MORRIS AND RICHARD PETERS.1
Head Quarters,King’s Ferry
I have devoted the first moment of my time, which I could command (while the troops are halted for the French army at this place), to give my sentiments unreservedly on the several matters contained in your favor of the 13th instant. This I will attempt to do with all that frankness and sincerity, which, from your own candor in your communications, you have a right to expect, and for doing which with the greater freedom the importance of the subject will be my apology. Persuaded that we are influenced by the same motives, and anxious in pursuit of the same object, I am only unhappy, that I should be forced to dissent in a single instance from the opinion of those, for whose judgment and ability I have the highest deference, respecting the surest and best mode for attaining that object.
But, being at the same time fully sensible of the necessity of prosecuting the war with as much vigor as our circumstances will admit, and of using the strictest economy in the prosecution of it; upon these very principles, I beg leave to give it as my opinion, that a reduction of the number of officers and men as fixed by the last arrangement, or any material alteration of the establishment of the army for the next campaign, would not in the present situation of affairs be expedient, for the following reasons.
In the first place, because the enemy must resolve to prosecute the war, or be disposed to make a peace; in either of which cases, a respectable army in the field on our part will, I conceive, more than compensate the expenses of it, and will eventually be the best and most economical system of policy we can possibly act upon. For, should the enemy still be determined to carry on the war with obstinacy, not only policy, but even necessity, would urge us to keep up a superior army, as the surest and only means of forcing them to a peace, and freeing us from the calamities and expenses of the war; as it is evident from many circumstances, that they have relied more for success on our want of exertions, than upon their own military prowess or resources, and that this has been one principal inducement of their persevering hitherto. But, on the other hand, should they be inclined to a pacification, a powerful and well appointed army would both enable us to dictate our own terms at the negotiation, and hasten the completion of it.
In addition to this, whoever considers how much more expensive and less serviceable militia are than Continental troops, how heavy and repeated a burden on the public their bounties are, when they are hired; when drafted, how disagreeable and frequently distressing for them to be torn from their families to a life with which they are totally unacquainted; how precarious and uncertain the aid is, which may be expected from them in such cases; what glorious opportunities have been lost by us, and what almost ruinous advantages have been taken by the enemy in times of our weakness, for want of a permanent force in the field,—will, I am persuaded, be convinced, that we ought to have constantly such an army as is sufficient to operate against the enemy, and supersede the necessity of calling forth the militia except on the most extraordinary occasions. I will also beg leave to remind you, Gentlemen, of the great reduction of the number of regiments on the Continental establishment, viz., from one hundred and sixteen to fifty since the year 1777, and to observe, in consequence, that, in my opinion, we do not find the enemy so much exhausted, or their strength so debilitated, as to warrant any farther diminution of our established force. By one of the late intercepted letters from Lord George Germaine, it appears the enemy considered the number of men, in their provincial corps only, greater than the whole number of men in the service of the continent. Since which time the reinforcements that have arrived from Europe amount, by the best accounts I have been able to obtain, to at least four thousand men.
That the States are able, by proper exertions, to furnish the number of men required by the last arrangement of the army, may I think rationally be supposed; as the population in many of them has rather increased than diminished since the commencement of the war; and as the greater part of them do actually, when called upon in an emergency, give a sufficient number of men for services of short duration to complete their Continental regiments. That the country abounds with supplies of all kinds is acknowledged from all quarters. Whether the men can be obtained, or the resources drawn forth, is more than I will presume with certainty to determine; but one thing is certain, that it is idle to contend against great odds, when we have it in our power to do it upon equal or even advantageous terms.
There are also several arguments, which I omit to enforce, that might be adduced particularly to prove the impropriety of reducing the number of officers, or making any considerable alteration in the system; such as our having found by experience, that the proportion of officers is not too great for the number of men; that the same or a greater proportion has been esteemed necessary in other more ancient services; and that the full complement is more indispensably requisite in ours, because there are a larger number of levies and recruits to train and discipline annually than is to be found in the regiments of other nations; and because a greater number of officers are taken from the line to perform the duties of the staff, than in most other services. It is likewise an established fact, that every alteration in the military system, or change in the arrangement, unless founded in the most obvious principles of utility, is attended with uneasiness among the officers, confusion with regard to the disposition of the men, and frequently with irregularities and disagreeable consequences before it can be carried completely into execution. Perfect order throughout the whole army has but just been restored since the last arrangement took place. Another innovation in the present situation might be more mischievous in its effects.
Thus I have, Gentlemen, from a desire of faithfully performing my duty, from the experience (of whatever degree it is) which I have acquired in the service of my country, and from the knowledge I have of the present state of the army, given my sentiments on the first of your queries, which likewise involves the answer to your second. With regard to the third, I am of opinion, that the recruits ought if possible to be engaged for the war, or three years; but, if this cannot be done, that the community, district, or class, furnishing a man for a shorter term of services, ought to be compellable to have him replaced by the period when his time of service expires; and that funds ought to be established, if practicable, for recruiting the men engaged for short services, while they continue with the army, as it is found by experience that they may be enlisted with more facility and less expense, than under any other circumstances. With respect to the fourth, fifth, and sixth queries, I am in doubt whether any alteration can be made on those subjects, which shall tend essentially, (all things considered,) to the public good. I have the honor to be, &c.”
CIRCULAR LETTER TO THE STATES.
Head Quarters,King’s Ferry,
I feel myself unhappy in being obliged to inform you that the circumstances, in which I find myself at this late period, have induced me to make an alteration of the main object which was at first adopted, and has hitherto been held in view, for the operations of this campaign. It gives me pain to say that the delay in the several states to comply with my requisitions of the 24th of May last, on which in a great measure depended the hopes of our success, in that attempt, has been one great and operative reason to lead to this alteration. Other circumstances, it is true, have had their weight in this determination, and it may, in the course of events, prove happy to the states, that this deviation from our main design has been adopted.
The fleet of the Count de Grasse, with a body of French troops on board, will make its first appearance in the Cheasapeak, which should the time of the fleet’s arrival prove favorable, and should the enemy under Lord Cornwallis hold their present position in Virginia, will give us the fairest opportunity to reduce the whole British force in the south, and to ruin their boasted expectations in that quarter:—to effect this desirable object, it has been judged expedient, taking into consideration our own present circumstances, with the situation of the enemy in New York, and at the southward, to abandon the seige of the former, and to march a body of troops, consisting of a detachment from the American army, with the whole of the French troops, immediately to Virginia. With this detachment, which will be very considerable, I have determined to march myself. The American troops are already on the west side of the Hudson, and the French army will arrive at King’s Ferry this day. When the whole are crossed, our march will be continued with as much despatch as circumstances will admit.
The American army which will remain in this department, excepting two light companies and some few detachments, consists of the two New Hampshire regiments, ten of Massachusetts and five of Connecticut infantry, with Sheldon’s legion, Crane’s artillery, the state troops and militia, which with proper exertions of the states, will, it is expected, be sufficient to hold the enemy in check at New York, and prevent their ravages on the frontiers. The command, during my absence, is given to Major-General Heath, who will have the honor to communicate with the States, on every occasion which may require their attention.
As the enemy’s force in New York has been for some time past very considerable, and it is reported with a good degree of certainty, that they have lately received a very considerable reinforcement of German recruits, from Europe, it will be necessary still to send forward a great part, if not the whole of the militia requested from your state, in the same manner as though no alteration had taken place in our measures. You will therefore continue to send on at least — men from your state to the orders of General Heath, with as much despatch as possible, unless you should be informed from him that this number need not be completed.
On this occasion I cannot omit to repeat to you my opinion, of the absolute importance of filling your continental battalions to their complete numbers, for the war, or three years. Not only our past experience for a course of years, but our present situation, should strongly enforce the necessity of this measure. Every campaign teaches us the increasing difficulty and expence of procuring short-termed levies, and their decreasing utility in the field. The large reinforcements which the enemy have this campaign sent to America, strongly indicate their expectations of the continuance of the war. Should this be the case, the best way to meet them is certainly with a permanent force, but should the war be drawing towards a close, a permanent and respectable army will give us the happiest prospects of a favorable peace. In every view, a permanent army should be the great object of the States to obtain, as they regard sound policy, prudence or economy. I have the honor to be, &c.
TO THE SUPERINTENDENT OF FINANCE.
Chatham, 27 August 1781.
Accounts brought by several vessels to Philadelphia and to the eastward leave little doubt, that the Count de Grasse must have already arrived in the Chesapeake, or that he must be very soon there. The Count de Rochambeau and myself have therefore determined that no time ought to be lost in making preparations for our transportation from Trenton to Christiana, and from the Head of Elk down the Chesapeake. I have written by this opportunity to Colonel Miles, and have directed him immediately to engage all the proper kind of craft for the navigation of the Delaware, which can be found in Philadelphia or in the creeks above and below it; and, as your advice may be useful to him, more especially so far as respects procuring the vessels at a distance from Philadelphia, I have desired him to wait upon you for that purpose. I shall also be obliged to you for using your influence with the gentlemen of Baltimore, to permit any vessels that may be in that port to come up to Elk and assist us in transportation. I have little doubt, from the cheerfulness with which they furnished the Marquis last winter, but they will comply with your requisition on the present occasion. But, lest there should be a necessity for the interference of the executive of the State, I have written to Governor Lee upon that and other matters. I enclose the letter under flying seal for your information, and you will be good enough to forward it by a chain of expresses which is established. Any vessels, which may be procured in the Chesapeake, should rendezvous as soon as possible, in Elk River.
You will be pleased to make the deposit of flour, rum, and salt meat at the Head of Elk, which I requested in a former letter. I am very fearful that about fifteen hundred barrels of salt provisions, and thirty hogsheads of rum, which I directed to be sent from Connecticut and Rhode Island under convoy of the Count de Barras, would not have been ready when the fleet sailed from Newport. Should that have been the case, the disappointment will be great. I would wish you to see whether a like quantity of those articles can be procured in Philadelphia or in Maryland, if we should find that they have not gone round from the eastward.
I must entreat you, if possible, to procure one month’s pay in specie for the detachment, which I have under my command. Part of those troops have not been paid any thing for a very long time past, and have upon several occasions shown marks of great discontent. The service they are going upon is disagreeable to the northern regiments; but I make no doubt that a douceur of a little hard money would put them in proper temper. If the whole sum cannot be obtained, a part of it will be better than none, as it may be distributed in proportion to the respective wants and claims of the men. The American detachment will assemble in this neighborhood to-day; the French army to-morrow. I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE.
Philadelphia, 2 September, 1781.
Nothing, my Dear Marquis, could have afforded me more satisfaction than the information, communicated in your two letters of the 21st and 24th ultimo, of the measures you had taken, and of the arrangements you were making, in consequence of the intelligence I had given you. Calculating upon the regular force under your immediate orders, the militia which have already been called for, and may be expected in the field, the whole of the French army, and the American corps now marching with Major-General Lincoln from the northward, in addition to the land forces expected on board of the fleet, I flatter myself we shall not experience any considerable difficulties from the want of men to carry our most favorite projects into execution. The means for prosecuting the siege with rapidity, energy, and success, and of supplying the troops while they are engaged in that service, as they are more precarious, have been and still continue to be the great objects of my concern and attention.
Heavy cannon, ordnance stores and ammunition, to a pretty large amount, are now forwarding. General Knox, in whose immediate province these arrangements are, who knows the whole of our resources, is making every exertion to furnish a competent supply, and will be on the spot to remedy every deficiency, as far as the circumstances will possibly admit. Having also from the first moment been extremely anxious respecting the supplies of the army, (in which I comprehend not only provisions of the bread and meat kind, &c., but also forage and the means of transportation,) I had written pressingly to the governors of Maryland and Virginia on that subject previous to the receipt of your favor of the 21st of August. I have since reiterated my entreaties, and enforced, in the strongest terms I was capable of using, the requisitions for specific supplies made by Congress, and now again called for by the superintendent of finance from the states of Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland; as to the supplies of Pennsylvania, we are to look for them from the financier himself. I hope and trust the efforts of these States and of Virginia will be uncommonly great, and proportionate to the magnitude of the object before us.
In order to introduce some kind of system and method in our supplies, to know with certainty what may be depended upon, and to put the business in the best possible train of execution, I shall send forward the heads of departments, as soon as their presence can be dispensed with. I have spoken to the surgeon-general respecting hospital stores and medicines. All that can be done will be done in that department. As to clothing I am sorry to inform you, little is to be expected, except in the article of shoes, of which a full supply will be sent on.
In my progress to the southward, I shall take care, as far as practicable, to make all the arrangements necessary for the operation in view, and to impress the executives with an idea of the absolute necessity of furnishing their quotas of supplies regularly; as we have no other resources to rely upon for the support of the army, and especially, as I am very apprehensive, that a quantity of fifteen hundred barrels of salted provisions, which I had ordered to be shipped under convoy of the Count de Barras, did not arrive in time for that purpose.
But, my dear Marquis, I am distressed beyond expression to know what has become of the Count de Grasse, and for fear that the English fleet, by occupying the Chesapeake, (towards which my last accounts say they were steering,) may frustrate all our flattering prospects in that quarter. I am also not a little solicitous for the Count de Barras, who was to have sailed from Rhode Island on the 23d ultimo, and from whom I have heard nothing since that time. Of many contingencies we will hope for the most propitious events. Should the retreat of Lord Cornwallis by water be cut off, by the arrival of either of the French fleets, I am persuaded you will do all in your power to prevent his escape by land. May that great felicity be reserved for you.1
You see how critically important the present moment is. For my own part, I am determined still to persist, with unremitting ardor, in my present plan, unless some inevitable and insuperable obstacles are thrown in the way. Adieu, my dear Marquis if you get any thing new from any quarter, send it I pray you, on the spur of speed for I am almost all impatience and anxiety, at the same time that I am, &c.
P. S. Since writing the above I have received your favor of the 25th. Col. Laurens has just arrived in this town from France via Boston, but I know not yet what intelligence he brings.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Williamsburg, 15 September, 1781.1
I have the honor to inform Congress, that I arrived at this place last evening; that soon after my arrival, I received the pleasing intelligence, that the Count de Grasse, who had put to sea on the 5th in pursuit of the British fleet, had returned to his former station at Cape Henry, having driven the British from the coast, taken two of their frigates, and effected a junction with the squadron of the Count de Barras.
1 In consequence of my having been informed of the sailing of the fleet from the Capes, and being apprehensive that we were not assured of the security of our navigation in the bay, I had ordered the troops, who were embarked at the Head of Elk, to stop until we had further intelligence. Orders are this morning gone on to press them forward with every despatch possible.2 I am distressed to find, that the supplies of the army collecting here are on too precarious a footing. Already a want of provisions has been experienced. Every measure is taking, that is in my power, to be better assured of our supplies in future. How far I shall succeed in my endeavors, time must discover. I have the honor to be, &c.
TO THE COUNT DE GRASSE.
I had the honor to receive your Excellency’s letter of the 4th of this month soon after the arrival at this place. I am at a loss to express the pleasure, which I have in congratulating your Excellency on your return to your former station in the bay, and the happy circumstance of forming a junction with the squadron of the Count de Barras. I take particular satisfaction in felicitating your Excellency on the glory of having driven the British fleet from the coast, and taking two of their frigates. These happy events, and the decided superiority of your fleet, gives us the happiest presages of the most complete success in our combined operations in this bay.
It is with much regret, that I find the want of transports in the bay has retarded the coming on of the troops expected from the northward. If it is possible for your Excellency to give us any assistance in this distress, it will be attended with inexpressible advantage to the prosecution of our measures, and will be acknowledged with the highest gratitude. Such of our troops, as could not be embarked at the Head of Elk, are marching to Baltimore, where they are to be put on board such transports as may be collected at that place.
It is very much the wish of the Count de Rochambeau, as well as myself, to have the honor of an interview with your Excellency; but our particular circumstances render us dependent on your goodness for the means of conveyance. If your Excellency could despatch some fast-sailing cutter to receive us on board, and will inform us your time and place, we shall be very happy to attend you, at the earliest moment you shall fix. Count Ferson, an aid to Count de Rochambeau, is sent on to hurry down the troops embarking on the Bay. If your Excellency can furnish him the means of proceeding up the bay, it will be very agreeable. I am, &c.
P. S. Since writing the above, I am informed with much pleasure, that your Excellency has anticipated my wishes in sending transports up the bay.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL ST. CLAIR.
Williamsburg, 15 September, 1781.
I have to request you, in the most earnest manner, to send forward all the recruits that are furnished by the State of Pennsylvania for their line. Let it not be said, that those troops are kept from service for want of a few articles, which they could wish to be furnished with, when other troops doing duty in the field are combating almost every distress imaginable in the want of almost every necessary. If any thing in the power of the State can be instantly done towards their equipment, I wish the authorities to be called upon, and hope they will furnish what they can without delay. It is the highest absurdity in the world to keep those troops in a state of idleness at great expense, and at the same time for want of them to put the public to the same or much greater charge, by calling in the aid of militia, which we are now obliged to do. I beg you, therefore, to hurry on those troops, with all the expedition in your power, by water down the Chesapeake, embarking at Baltimore, where craft can doubtless be found by taking the proper precaution, and their transportation will be perfectly secure, so long as the fleet maintains its present station. The place of debarkation will be in James River, probably at the College Landing, unless further orders shall be given to carry them to some other place nearer the point of our operations. I am, &c.1
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS.
The noble and generous Support which is given to this Country by His Most Christian Majesty, does, as it ought, fill the breast of every American with gratitude & Love;—The zeal and alacrity with which His Officers strive to carry His Royal intentions into execution, merit our highest admiration & applause, a recent instance of this is now before us: But the distressed and unfortunate circumstances of these United States, and the dispersed situation of their Troops, are such, as do not admit their military operations to be carried on with that celerity which could be wished, nor place them on that advantageous ground, from which they may reap all that benefit from this generous Aid, that in other circumstances they might expect to receive.
The measures which are now persuing are big with great events; the Peace & Independence of this Country, and the general tranquillity of Europe will, it is more than probable, result from our Compleat success;—disgrace to ourselves, Triumph to the Enemy, and probable Ruin to the American cause, will follow our disappointment.
The first is certain, if the powerful Fleet, now in Chesapeak Bay or such part of it as will be competent to the purpose, can remain to the close of a regular operation, which, from various unforeseen causes, may be protracted beyond our present expectations,—The second is much to be apprehended, if from the fear of loosing the Aid of the Fleet, the operations by Land are precipitated faster than a necessary prudence & regard to the lives of men, will warrant—the first may be slow, but sure—the second must be bloody & precarious.
Under this state of matters, General Washington begs, that the Count de Grasse will have the goodness to give him a Resolution of the following Questions—Viz:
1st. Is your Excellency restricted to any certain time for the continuance of the Fleet upon this Coast? If any time is fixed, beyond which your orders will not warrant your stay in this Bay, or if the persuit of any other object should more attract your attention,—be pleased to name the day to which your departure is determined?
1st. The Instructions of Count de Grasse fix his departure to the 15th of October, and some engagements which he has made for other operations oblige him to be punctual; But having already taken much upon himself, he will also engage to stay to the end of October.
2d. If your Excellency should find yourself under a necessity to return the Troops, under the Command of the Marquis de St. Simon, to the West Indies, (however to be lamented such circumstance must be) may I not be assured that a detachment of the Fleet may be employed as a Convoy to those Troops, and that the Main Fleet may remain in the Bay to form a sufficient cover to our operations against the Enemy—to prevent their receiving supplies by water, and to protect us from any attempt from the British to give relief to Lord Cornwallis and raise our siege;—and their Fleet to remain untill the close of our operations?
2d. The Troops, under the orders of Marquis de St. Simon, have a particular destination, and I am not altogether at Liberty to dispose of them; But as my Vessels will not depart before the 1st of November, you may count upon those Troops to that period, for the Reduction of York.
3d. Will it, in your Excellency’s opinion, be practicable to force, with your Ships, the passage of the York River, so as to get above the enemy? This measure, if effected, will be attended with almost infinite advantages, not only, as it will secure our Communication to both sides of the River, which otherwise must be very lengthy and tedious, but will give us the Navigation of the River, and enable us to draw the supplies of the Country throughout its whole extent;—and will also form the compleat investiture of the Enemy’s Posts?
3d. The thing is not impossible with a good Wind and favorable Tide; But I do not find that operation very useful. Our communication can be established, and our provisions drawn from the East side of York River without requiring the men & Vessells in their passage between the Batteries; But I suspend my definitive answer until I can reconoitre the local situation and force of the Enemy; I shall certainly do every thing in my power.
4th. So long as the Enemy possesses both sides of the River, it will be necessary to keep up our force on both sides,—to aid our efforts in this operation, will it be in your Excellency’s power to spare us any number of men from on board the Fleet, to continue so long as this measure is necessary? if any, what number?
4th. I have offered, and I again offer 1800 or 2000 men from my Ships; But I wish that these Troops may not be employed but in a Coup de Main.
5th. If in the prosecution of our operations, our prospects of success should wear a favorable aspect, I shall be glad to be decided whether your Excellency will be able to detach some suitable vessels from your Fleet, sufficient to block in the British Troops at Wilmington, and to possess the Harbour of Charlestown?
5th. The form of my Vessels do not admit of the enterprise.
6th. If our operations should be of such a nature as to require it, will your Excellency be able to lend us some heavy Cannon and other Artillery,—powder also—and in what number and quantity?
Sept. 17, 1781.
6th. I can give some Cannon and powder.—The two Coms. (?) which I have had admit of my sparing but a small quantity of the latter.
Le Comte de Grasse.
TO THE COUNT DE GRASSE.
Williamsburg, 25 September, 1781.
I cannot conceal from your Excellency the painful anxiety under which I have labored since the receipt of the letter, with which you honored me on the 23d instant. The naval movements, which your Excellency states there as possible, considering the intelligence communicated to you by the Baron de Closen, make it incumbent upon me to represent the consequences that would arise from them, and to urge a perseverance in the plan already agreed upon. Give me leave, in the first place, to repeat to your Excellency, that the enterprise against York, under the protection of your ships, is as certain as any military operation can be rendered by a decisive superiority of strength and means; that it is in fact reducible to calculation; and that the surrender of the British garrison will be so important in itself and its consequences; and that it must necessarily go a great way towards terminating the war, and securing the invaluable objects of it to the allies.
Your Excellency’s departure from the Chesapeake, by affording an opening for the succor of York, which the enemy would instantly avail himself of, would frustrate these brilliant prospects; and the consequence would be, not only the disgrace and loss of renouncing an enterprise, upon which the fairest expectations of the allies have been founded, after the most expensive preparations and uncommon exertions and fatigues, but the disbanding perhaps of the whole army for want of provisions.
The present theatre of the war is totally deficient in means of land transportation, being intersected by large rivers, and its whole dependence for interior communication being upon small vessels. The country has been so much exhausted besides by the ravages of the enemy, and the subsistence of our own army, that our supplies can only be drawn from a distance, and under cover of a fleet mistress of the Chesapeake. I most earnestly entreat your Excellency farther to consider, that, if the present opportunity should be missed, that if you should withdraw your maritime force from the position agreed upon, that no future day can restore to us a similar occasion for striking a decisive blow; that the British will be indefatigable in strengthening their most important maritime points; and that the epoch of an honorable peace will be more remote than ever.
The confidence, with which I feel myself inspired by the energy of character and the naval talents, which so eminently distinguish your Excellency, leaves me no doubt, that, upon a consideration of the consequences, which must follow your departure from the Chesapeake, that your Excellency will determine upon the possible measure, which the dearest interests of the common cause would dictate. I had invariably flattered myself, from the accounts given me by skilful mariners, that your Excellency’s position, moored in the Chesapeake, might be made so respectable as to bid defiance to any attempt on the part of the British fleet, at the same time that it would support the operations of the siege, secure the transportation of our supplies by water, and economize the most precious time by facilitating the debarkation of our heavy artillery and stores conveniently to the trenches in York River. It is to be observed, that the strength of the enemy’s reinforcement announced under Admiral Digby, as we have the intelligence from the British, may not only be exaggerated, but altogether a finesse; and, supposing the account consistent with truth, their total force, it was hoped, would not put them in condition to attack with any prospect of success.
If the stationary position, which had been agreed upon, should be found utterly impracticable, there is an alternative, which however inferior, considered relatively to the support and facility of our land operations, would save our affairs from ruin. This is, to cruise with your fleet within view of the Capes, so as effectually to prevent the entrance of any British vessels.
Upon the whole, I should esteem myself deficient in my duty to the common cause of France and America, if I did not persevere in entreating your Excellency to resume the plans, that have been so happily arranged; and, if invincible maritime reasons prevent, I depend as a last resource upon your Excellency’s pursuing the alternative above mentioned, and rendering the Chesapeake inaccessible to any enemy’s vessel.
However the British admiral may manœuvre, and endeavor to divert your Excellency from the object in view, I can hardly admit a belief, that it can be his serious intention to engage in a general action with a fleet, whose force will be superior, supposing the most flattering accounts for the British to be true; past experience having taught them to engage with caution, even upon equal terms, and forced from them acknowledgments which prove the respect with which they have been inspired. Let me add, Sir, that even a momentary absence of the French fleet may expose us to the loss of the British garrison at York; as in the present state of affairs, Lord Cornwallis might effect the evacuation with the loss of his artillery and baggage, and such a sacrifice of men as his object would evidently justify.
The Marquis de Lafayette, who does me the honor to bear this to your Excellency, will explain many particularities of our situation, which could not well be comprised in a letter. His candor and abilities are well known to your Excellency, and entitle him to the fullest confidence in treating of the most important interests. I have earnestly requested him not to proceed any farther than the Capes,1 for fear of accidents, should your Excellency have put to sea. In this case he will despatch a letter to your Excellency in addition to this. I have the honor to be, &c.2
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Head Quarters, Camp before York,
Last evening I was honored with your Excellency’s favor of the 21st ulto., with its enclosure. The intelligence it contains, respecting the British fleet is very agreeable, and will be immediately transmitted to the Count de Grasse. In my last which bore date the 23d ultimo I informed that our preparations for a near investment of the enemy at York were fast ripening to a point. I have now to acquaint your Excellency, that I marched from Williamsburg with the whole army on the 28th, and approached within about two miles of the enemy, at York, at which distance a show was made of some opposition on our left; but, upon the Count de Rochambeau, who commands that part of the army, his moving a few pieces of field-artillery under direction of the Baron Vioménil, and giving a few shots the enemy retired. On the 29th, the American troops moved forward, and took their ground in front of the enemy’s works on their left; no opposition, except a few scattered shots from a small work by Moor’s Mill, on Wormleys creek and a battery on the left of Pigeon Quarter. A small fire all day from our riflemen and the enemy’s Yagers. 30th in the morning, we discovered that the enemy had evacuated all their exterior line of works, and withdrawn themselves to those near the body of the town. By this means we are in possession of very advantageous grounds, which command in a very near advance almost the whole remaining line of their defence. All the expedition, that our circumstances will admit, is using to bring up our heavy artillery and stores and to open our batteries. This work I hope will be executed in a few days, when our fire will begin with great vigor.
The investment of the enemy is fully completed and drawn very near to their lines, except on the river above the town where their communication is still open. To prevent this and to complete the blockade, a request is gone to the Count de Grasse, desiring him to push if he thinks it practicable one or more ships above the town; this, if effected, will answer many very valuable purposes. The position of the Count de Grasse is judiciously taken, the main fleet keeping their station in Lynnhaven Bay, and detachments made to secure the rivers; the determination of the Count is favorably disposed to comply with our wishes in every necessary co-operation. I shall continue to keep Congress advised of such occurrences as are worthy the communication.
I have the honor to be, &c.
TO THE COUNT DE GRASSE.
BeforeYork, 1 October, 1781.
I should have had the honor of acknowledging sooner the note, which your Excellency transmitted by the Marquis de Lafayette, but an expectation of being able to accompany my answer with interesting intelligence induced me to defer it to the present moment. With regard to the station, which your Excellency has determined for the main fleet, the reasons, which you are pleased to communicate, prove that it unites all advantages, and inspire the greatest confidence in the accomplishment of its object.
I have only one proposition to submit to your Excellency on the subject of naval dispositions, and the objects of it are too essential not to be exposed to you in their fullest light. I mean the stationing two or three ships above the enemy’s posts on York River. For want of this only means of completing the investment of their works, the British remain masters of the navigation for twenty-five miles distance above them, and have, by their armed vessels, intercepted supplies of the greatest value on their way to our camp. The loss is redoubled, by diminishing our means and augmenting those of the enemy at a most critical time. We are even necessitated, for the protection of Williamsburg and the magazines in our rear, to leave a post of seven or eight hundred men in that quarter; a diminution of our force that in present circumstances we can but illy support. But, unless this detachment is made, the enemy might in the greatest security land above Queen’s Creek to cover his left flank, and by a very short march effect the most destructive purposes; while the circuitous march which we, from the nature of the country, should be obliged to make, would render it impossible to arrive in time to prevent or punish him. We are besides reduced to the impossibility of concerting measures with the corps of troops at Gloucester, being obliged, in order to communicate with them, to make a circuit of near ninety miles, whereas in the other case it would be both easy and expeditious. But what is a still more decisive consideration is, that Lord Cornwallis has, by the York River, an outlet for his retreat, and that he may, by embracing a leading wind and tide and stealing a march, proceed unmolested to West Point, where, upon debarking his troops, he will have the Pamunky on one flank and the Mattapony on the other; and that finally he may, by mounting the greatest part of his men, and successive forced marches, push his way, with a compact, disciplined army, through a country whose population is too scattered to be collected for sudden opposition, and make it impossible for us to overtake him. Many people are of opinion, that Lord Cornwallis will embrace this as the only means of safety; and it is certain, that, unless the investment is completed as above mentioned, he will have it in his power either now or in a last extremity.
The present position of the fleet and army perfectly secures us against every enterprise on the part of the enemy in James River.
Upon the whole, I can assure your Excellency, that this seems to be the only point in which we are defective. The enemy has already abandoned all their exterior works, and withdrawn himself altogether to the body of the place, and given us great advantages for opening the trenches. The engineers have had a near and satisfactory view of the works, without interruption, and we have most to apprehend Lord Cornwallis’s escape.
For these reasons I earnestly entreat, that your Excellency will be pleased to authorize and enjoin the commanding officer of the ships in York River, to concert measures with me for the purpose above mentioned. In this case an additional ship may be necessary to remain at the mouth of the river. The Experiment and two frigates, if your Excellency thinks proper, would be best calculated for the station above.
If, upon mature examination of the passage, it should appear too great a risk for the ships, I would at least solicit your Excellency, that the vessels might advance higher up the river, and take a more menacing position with respect to the enemy on our right. But I must confess, to your Excellency, that I am so well satisfied by experience, of the little effect of land batteries on vessels passing them with a leading breeze, that, unless the two channels near York should be found impracticable by obstructions, I should have the greatest confidence in the success of this important service.
Your Excellency’s approbation of this measure would supersede the necessity of a defence against fire-ships. But the nature of the river besides renders it physically impossible to form any obstructions of the kind proposed. I entreat your Excellency to accept the sentiments of respectful attachment, with which I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL GREENE.
Camp, beforeYork, 6 October, 1781.
My Dear Sir,
How happy am I, in at length having it in my power to congratulate you upon a victory as splendid as I hope it will prove important. Fortune must have been coy indeed, had she not yielded at last to so persevering a pursuer as you have been. I hope, now she is yours, that she will change her appellation of fickle to that of constant.
I can say with sincerity, that I feel with the highest degree of pleasure the good effects, which you mention as resulting from the perfect good understanding between you, the Marquis, and myself. I hope it will never be interrupted, and I am sure it never can while we are all influenced by the same pure motive, that of love to our country and interest in the cause in which we are embarked. I have happily had but few differences with those, with whom I have the honor of being connected in the service. With whom, and of what nature these have been, you know. I bore much for the sake of peace and the public good. My conscience tells me, I acted rightly in these transactions; and, should they ever come to the knowledge of the world, I trust I shall stand acquitted by it.
The Baron,1 from the warmth of his temper, had got disagreeably involved with the State, and an inquiry into a part of his conduct must one day take place, both for his own honor and their satisfaction. I have for the present given him a command in this army, which makes him happy. I shall always take pleasure in giving Mrs. Greene’s letters a conveyance; and, should she persist in the resolution of undertaking so long a journey, as that from New England to Carolina, I hope she will make Mount Vernon, where Mrs. Knox now is, a stage of more than a day or two. With much esteem and regard, I am, dear Sir, &c.2
TO DON FRANCISCO RENDON.3
I was yesterday honored with your favor of the 2d. It gives me pleasure to find so good a disposition in Don Bernardo de Galvez4 to concert his operations in such a manner against the common enemy, that the interests of His Catholic Majesty and those of ourselves and our ally may be mutually benefited. You must be sensible, that, in the present political situation of affairs, I cannot, with any degree of propriety, in behalf of the United States propose any joint plan of operations to Don Galvez, though I flatter myself that difficulty will be ere long removed.
Neither can I at this time determine whether we shall be able to act offensively against the enemy in South Carolina and Georgia. That will in great measure depend upon the naval assistance we shall be able to derive from our ally. Of this you may assure Don Galvez, that, should any offensive plan be formed, which is to be undertaken by the allied arms, I will use my influence with the French commanders to give him due notice, should I not be able to open a correspondence with him myself. In the mean time you may inform him, that he cannot make a more powerful diversion in favor of the southern States, than by pushing his arms against East Florida.
I am obliged by the extract of Don Galvez’s letter to the Count de Grasse, explaining at large the necessity he was under of granting the terms of capitulation to the garrison of Pensacola, which the commandant required. I have no doubt, from Don Galvez’s well known attachment to the cause of America, that he would have refused the articles, which have been deemed exceptionable, had there not been very powerful reasons to induce his acceptance of them. * * *
I am, Sir, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
My last despatch to your Excellency was of the 6th. I then informed you, that we should open trenches on that night.1 We did so, and established our first parallel within six hundred yards of the enemy’s works, with the loss of only one officer of the French artillery wounded, and sixteen privates killed and wounded, the greater part of which were of the French line.
The 7th and 8th we were employed in completing the first parallel, and in erecting batteries somewhat advanced of it. The 9th at 3 o’clock in the afternoon the French Battery on the left, of four 12-pounders, six mortars and Howitzers opened—and at 5 o’clock the American Battery on the right, of six 18- and 24- pounders—two mortars, and two Howitzers opened also.
We were informed, that our shells did considerable execution in the town, and we could perceive that our shot, which were directed against the enemy’s embrasures, injured them much. The 10th, two French batteries, one of ten eighteen and twenty-four pounders, and six mortars and howitzers, the other of four eighteen-pounders, opened, as did two more American batteries, one of four eighteen-pounders, the other of two mortars. The fire now became so excessively heavy, that the enemy withdrew their cannon from their embrasures, placed them behind the merlins, and scarcely fired a shot during the whole day. In the evening the Charon frigate of forty-four guns was set on fire by a hot ball from the French battery on the left, and entirely consumed. Her guns and stores had been taken out. By the report of a deserter, our shells, which were thrown with the utmost degree of precision, did much mischief in the course of the day.
Yesterday morning two of the enemy’s transports were fired by hot shot and burnt. This has occasioned them to warp their shipping as far over to the Gloucester shore as possible. We last night advanced our second parallel within three hundred yards of the enemy’s works, with little or no annoyance from them. Only one man was killed, and three or four wounded. I shall think it strange indeed, if Lord Cornwallis makes no vigorous exertions in the course of this night, or very soon after.
I cannot but acknowledge the infinite obligations I am under to His Excellency, the Count de Rochambeau, the Marquis St. Simon, commanding the troops from the West Indies, the other general officers, and indeed the officers of every denomination in the French army, for the assistance which they afford me. The experience of many of those gentlemen, in the business before us, is of the utmost advantage in the present operation. And I am sensible it must give your Excellency and Congress the highest pleasure to know, that the greatest harmony prevails between the two armies. They seem actuated by one spirit, that of supporting the honor of the allied arms, and pushing their approaches with the utmost vigor. I have the honor to be, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
I had the honor to inform your Excellency in my last, of the 12th instant, that we had the evening before opened our second parallel. The 13th and 14th we were employed in completing it.1 The engineers having deemed the two redoubts on the left of the enemy’s line sufficiently injured by our shot and shells to make them practicable, it was determined to carry them by assault on the evening of the 14th. The following disposition was accordingly made. The work on the enemy’s extreme left to be attacked by the American light infantry under the command of the Marquis de Lafayette; the other by a detachment of the French grenadiers and chasseurs, commanded by Major-General the Baron Vioménil. I have the pleasure to inform your Excellency, that we succeeded in both. Nothing could exceed the firmness and bravery of the troops. They advanced under the fire of the enemy without returning a shot, and effected the business by the bayonet only. The reports of his Excellency the Count de Rochambeau, the Marquis de Lafayette, and Lieutenant-Colonel Hamilton, copies of which I enclose, enter more particularly into a detail of the mode in which the attacks on the parts of the French and American columns were conducted. We made prisoners in both redoubts, one major, two captains, three subalterns, and sixty-seven privates.
The works, which we have carried, are of vast importance to us. From them we shall enfilade the enemy’s whole line, and I am in hopes we shall be able to command the communication from York to Gloucester. I think the batteries of the second parallel will be in sufficient forwardness to begin to play in the course of this day. The enemy last night made a sortie for the first time. They entered one of the French and one of the American batteries on the second parallel, which were unfinished. They had only time to thrust the points of their bayonets into four pieces of the French and two of the American artillery, and break them off; but the spikes were easily extracted. They were repulsed the moment the supporting troops came up, leaving behind them seven or eight dead, and six prisoners. The French had four officers and twelve privates killed and wounded, and we had one sergeant mortally wounded. I enclose your Excellency a return of the killed and wounded of both armies up to the present time. It is smaller than might have been expected.1 I have the honor to be, &c.2
TO LORD CORNWALLIS.
Head Quarters, beforeYork,
To avoid unnecessary discussion and delays I shall at once, in answer to your Lordships letters of yesterday, declare the general basis upon which a definitive treaty and capitulation must take place.3 The garrisons of York and Gloucester, including the seamen, as you propose, will be received Prisoners of War. The condition annexed, of sending the British and German troops to the parts of Europe to which they respectively belong, is inadmissible. Instead of this they will be marched to such parts of the Country as can most conveniently provide for their subsistence, and the benevolent treatment of Prisoners, which is invariably observed by the Americans, will be extended to them. The same honors will be granted to the surrendering Army as were granted to the Garrison of Charlestown. The shipping and boats in the two harbors, with all their Guns, Stores, Tackling, furniture and apparel, shall be delivered in their present state to an officer of the Navy, appointed to take possession of them.
The Artillery, Arms, Accoutrements, Military Chest, and public stores of every denomination, shall be delivered, unimpaired to the heads of departments to which they respectively belong.
The officers will be indulged in retaining their side arms, and the officers and soldiers may preserve their baggage and effects, with this reserve, that property taken in the Country will be reclaimed.
With regard to the individuals in civil capacities whose interests, your Lordship wishes may be attended to; until they are more particularly described, nothing definitive can be settled.
I have to add that I expect the sick and wounded will be supplied with their own Hospital Stores, and be attended by British Surgeons, particularly charged with the care of them.
Your Lordship will be pleased to signify your determination either to accept or reject the proposals now offered in the course of two hours from the delivery of this letter that Commissioners may be appointed to digest the articles of capitulation, or a renewal of hostilities may take place. I have the honor, &c.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
I have the honor to inform Congress, that a reduction of the British army, under the command of Lord Cornwallis, is most happily effected. The unremitted ardor, which actuated every officer and soldier in the combined army on this occasion, has principally led to this important event, at an earlier period than my most sanguine hopes had induced me to expect.
The singular spirit of emulation, which animated the whole army from the first commencement of our operations, has filled my mind with the highest pleasure and satisfaction, and had given me the happiest presages of success.
On the 17th instant, a letter was received from Lord Cornwallis, proposing a meeting of commissioners to consult on terms for the surrender of the posts of York and Gloucester. This letter (the first which had passed between us) opened a correspondence, a copy of which I do myself the honor to enclose; that correspondence was followed by the definitive capitulation, which was agreed to and signed on the 19th, a copy of which is also herewith transmitted, and which, I hope, will meet the approbation of Congress.
I should be wanting in the feelings of gratitude, did I not mention on this occasion, with the warmest sense of acknowledgment, the very cheerful and able assistance, which I have received in the course of our operation from his Excellency the Count de Rochambeau and all his officers of every rank in their respective capacities. Nothing could equal the zeal of our allies, but the emulating spirit of the American officers, whose ardor would not suffer their exertions to be exceeded.
The very uncommon degree of duty and fatigue, which the nature of the service required from the officers of engineers and artillery of both armies, obliges me particularly to mention the obligations I am under to the commanding and other officers of those corps.
I wish it was in my power to express to Congress, how much I feel myself indebted to the Count de Grasse and the officers of the fleet under his command, for the distinguished aid and support which has been afforded by them, between whom and the army the most happy concurrence of sentiments and views has subsisted, and from whom every possible coöperation has been experienced, which the most harmonious intercourse could afford.
Returns of the prisoners, military stores, ordnance, shipping, and other matters, I shall do myself the honor to transmit to Congress, as soon as they can be collected by the heads of the departments to which they belong.
Colonel Laurens and the Viscount de Noailles, on the part of the combined army, were the gentlemen who acted as commissioners for forming and settling the terms of capitulation and surrender, herewith transmitted, to whom I am particularly obliged for their readiness and attention exhibited on the occasion.
Colonel Tilghman, one of my aids-de-camp, will have the honor to deliver these despatches to your Excellency; he will be able to inform you of every minute circumstance, which is not particularly mentioned in my letter. His merits, which are too well known to need any observations at this time, have gained my particular attention, and I could wish that they may be honored by the notice of your Excellency and Congress.
Your Excellency and Congress will be pleased to accept my congratulations on this happy event, and believe me to be, with the highest esteem, &c. Though I am not possessed of the particular returns yet I have reason to suppose that the number of prisoners will be between five and six thousand exclusive of seamen and others.1
TO THE COUNT DE GRASSE.
Head-Quarters, 20 October, 1781.
The surrender of York, from which so much glory and advantage are derived to the allies, and the honor of which belongs to your Excellency, has greatly anticipated our most sanguine expectations. Certain of this event, under your auspices, though unable to determine the time, I solicited your attention, in the first conference with which you honored me, to ulterior objects of decisive importance to the common cause. Although your answer on that occasion was unfavorable to my wishes, the unexpected promptness, with which our operations here have been conducted to their final success, having gained us time, the defect of which was one of your Excellency’s principal objections, a perspective of the most extensive and happy consequences engage me to renew my representation.
Charleston, the principal maritime port of the British in the southern parts of the continent, the grand deposit and point of support for the present theatre of the war, is open to a combined attack, and might be carried with as much certainty as the place which has just surrendered. This capture would destroy the last hope, which induces the enemy to continue the war; for, having experienced the impracticability of recovering the populous northern States, has determined to confine themselves to the defensive in that quarter, and prosecute a most vigorous offensive southward, with a view of reconquering States, whose sparse population and natural disadvantages render them infinitely less susceptible of defence, although their productions render them the most valuable in a commercial view. His general naval superiority, previous to your Excellency’s arrival, gave him decisive advantages in the rapid transport of his troops and supplies, while the immense land marches of our succours, too tardive and expensive in every point of view, subjected us to be beat in detail.
It will depend upon your Excellency, therefore, to terminate the war, and enable the allies to dictate the law in a treaty. A campaign so glorious and so fertile in consequences could be reserved only for the Count de Grasse. It rarely happens, that such a combination of means, as are in our hands at present, can be seasonably obtained by the most strenuous of human exertions; a decisively superior fleet, the fortune and talents of whose commander overawe all naval force that the most incredible efforts of the enemy have been able to collect; an army flushed with success, and demanding only to be conducted to new attacks; and the very season, which is proper for operating against the points in question.
If, upon entering into the detail of this expedition, your Excellency should still determine it impracticable, there is an object, which, though subordinate to that above mentioned, is of capital importance to our southern operations, and may be effected at infinitely less expense; I mean the enemy’s post of Wilmington in North Carolina. Circumstances require that I should at this period reinforce the southern army under General Greene. This reinforcement, transported by sea under your convoy, would enable us to carry the post in question with very little difficulty, and would wrest from the British a point of support in North Carolina, which is attended with the most dangerous consequences to us, and liberate another State. This object would require nothing more than the convoy of your Excellency to the point of operation, and the protection of the debarkation.
I entreat your Excellency’s attention to the points, which I have the honor of laying before you, and that you will be pleased at the same time to inform me what are your dispositions for a maritime force to be left on the American station. I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO DAVID ROSS.
Head Quarters, 24 October, 1781.
In answer to your Queries of Yesterday, the Negroes that have been retaken, from whatever State, whose owners do not appear, should all be treated in the same manner, and sent into the Country to work for their Victuals and Cloathes, and advertised in the States they came from. Those from N. York, are most probably the property of Inhabitants of that State and N. Jersey, and should be there Advertised. If any officers, knowing who the owners are, will undertake to send them Home, they may be delivered to them. The other steps taken by you, are proper and Expedient. The Negroes may be furnished with two days’ Provisions to carry them to Williamsburg, where there is a State Commissary.
I am, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
I do myself the honor to enclose to your Excellency copies of returns of prisoners, artillery, arms, ordnance, and other stores surrendered by the enemy in their posts of York and Gloucester on the 19th instant, which were not completed at the time of my last despatches, and but this moment handed to me. A draft of these posts, with the plan of attack and defence, is also transmitted, and twenty-four standards taken at the same time are ready to be laid before Congress.
Our operations against the enemy in this State being concluded, it becomes my duty to inform Congress of the disposition I have made for the future destination of the troops under my command. The Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia Continental troops are ordered as a reinforcement to the army under the command of General Greene. I shall myself, with the troops of the States to the northward of Pennsylvania, return to my former position on the North River and the communications with it. The first mentioned division, composing a body of two thousand men, under the direction of Major General the Marquis de Lafayette, will, on their way to South Carolina, make an expedition against the enemy’s posts at Wilmington in North Carolina. To effect which purpose, they will be transported to a proper point of debarkation, under convoy of the Count de Grasse, who encourages me, if circumstances and situation of the water will admit, to give them his coöperation, so long as it shall be necessary to accomplish, by a coup de main, their object at Wilmington. Immediately upon the reduction of that post, the troops will proceed to join General Greene.
That I may not, from the above arrangement, incur the censure of Congress, or the States, who may have flattered their expectations with a prospect of my pushing my operations further southward than this State; in justice to my own endeavors, and for the satisfaction of Congress, I find myself obliged to transmit to your Excellency a summary of the reasons, which have induced my determinations. In doing which, I take the liberty to submit to Congress copies of two propositions, which I have had the honor to make to the Count de Grasse, with his answers to each. The first, which was made immediately on my arrival at Williamsburg, and is dated the 17th of September, will show, that other objects than the reduction of the British force under the command of Lord Cornwallis were early in my contemplation, and will also declare what were at that time the sentiments of the French admiral. The second proposition, made after the surrender of the British army, will evince with how much reluctance I could bring myself to relinquish a further prosecution of favorite views. In addition to these communications, Congress will scarcely need to be informed, that, having no means of water conveyance, the transportation, by land, of the army, with their baggage, artillery, ordance stores, and other apparatus necessary for the siege of Charleston, if not utterly impracticable, would be attended with such immense trouble, expense, and delay, as would (exclusive of the necessity of naval coöperation) be sufficient to deter me from the undertaking; especially as the enemy, after regaining the naval superiority on this coast, could reinforce or withdraw the garrison at pleasure.
The prosecution, therefore, of the southern war, upon that broad scale which I had wished, being as I judge to be relinquished, nothing remained in my opinion more eligible, than to reinforce General Greene’s army to such a state of respectability, as that he might be able to command the country of South Carolina, and at the same time, if possible, by that reinforcement to effect an accomplishment of the smaller object mentioned; and to march myself, with the remainder of the army, to North River, where they will be ready at the ensuing campaign to commence such operations against New York, as may be hereafter concerted, or to effect any other purposes that may be judged practicable. Add to these reasons, the Count de Rochambeau, from the exhausted state of his stores and other considerations, seemed inclined to take his resolution to remain in this State with his troops for the winter, at any rate six weeks to refresh them. Upon a full consideration of the reasons offered, I flatter myself, that my conduct will stand approved in the judgment of Congress, whose approbation I shall ever be solicitous to obtain.
I enclose, also, for the observation of Congress, a copy of my letter to the ministers of the United States at the courts of Europe, conveying to them the intelligence of our success against the enemy in this State. The reasons for my conduct, as stated in that letter, I must rely upon, as my justification with Congress for the liberty taken in that communication.
Unacquainted with the state of politics between Congress and the courts of Europe respecting future negotiations, whatever our prospects from that quarter may be, I cannot justify myself to my own mind without urging Congress in the warmest terms to make every arrangement that may be found necessary, for an early and efficacious campaign the ensuing year. Arguments, I flatter myself, need not be adduced to impress on Congress the high importance of this idea. Whatever may be the events of the coming winter or ensuing summer, an effectual and early preparation for military operations will put us upon the most respectable footing, either for war or negotiation; while a relaxation will place us in a disreputable situation in point of peaceful prospects, and will certainly expose us to the most disgraceful disasters, in case of a continuance of the hostile disposition of our enemies. I do myself the pleasure to acknowledge the receipt of your Excellency’s several letters of the 10th, 13th, and 14th insts., and thank you for the intelligence communicated in them.
Nothing is yet heard of Admiral Digby, with his fleet, near these coasts. Whatever may be his intentions, Count de Grasse, I believe, is ready to meet him.
I have the honor to be, &c.
P. S. October 29th. At the moment of closing my despatch, I am favored with the definitive determination of the Count de Grasse respecting the troops I hoped to have transported to Wilmington by water. The Admiral’s ideas are communicated in his letter to the Marquis de Lafayette, a copy of which is herewith transmitted.1 In consequence of this resolution, and having no transports, I am obliged to send on the troops destined for the southern district by land. They will commence their march in a few days, under the command of Major-General St. Clair. The command of the expedition against Wilmington had been committed to the Marquis, upon the contingency of the troops being transported by water. On failure of this event, the Marquis does not proceed with the reinforcement. My present despatches being important, I have committed to the care of Colonel Humphreys, one of my aids-de-camp, whom for his attention, fidelity, and good services, I beg leave to recommend to the notice of Congress and your Excellency.1
TO THE COUNT DE GRASSE.
Head-Quarters, 28 October, 1781.
Your Excellency did me the honor to mention, in one of your letters, and subsequently in the note transmitted by the Marquis de Lafayette, that, from a desire to serve the United States, your Excellency would enter into engagements for such coöperations the next campaign as should not be incompatible with the orders of your court. This offer is too essential to the interests of the common cause, not to be embraced by me with the greatest eagerness, while it claims my warmest acknowledgments for the continuance of your friendly disposition towards America. As it is impossible, at this distance of time, to determine whether it will be most advantageous for the allies to open the campaign with the siege of New York, and thence proceed to that of Charleston, or make Charleston the leading operation, I take the liberty of proposing to your Excellency the following general disposition, as equally applicable to either; namely, that your Excellency would assemble a decisive naval superiority in the Bay of Chesapeake, toward the end of May, from which central position we might easily transport ourselves for a reunion of our means against whichever of the maritime points above mentioned circumstances should render it most advisable to attack first. With your Excellency, I need not insist either upon the indispensable necessity of a maritime force capable of giving you an absolute ascendency in these seas, nor enlarge upon the advantages, which must be derived from anticipating the British in opening the campaign, next to the immediate prosecution of our present successes with the union of superior means now in our power, and which would infallibly terminate the war at one stroke.
The plan, which I have the honor to submit to your Excellency, is that which appears to me most likely to accomplish the great objects of the alliance. Your Excellency will have observed, that, whatever efforts are made by the land armies, the navy must have the casting vote in the present contest. The court of France are convinced of it, and have declared their resolution to give this indispensable succor. The triumphant manner in which your Excellency has maintained the mastery of the American seas, and the glory of the French flag, lead both nations to look to you as the arbiter of the war. Public and private motives make me most ardently wish, that the next campaign may be calculated to crown all your former victories. I entreat your Excellency to be persuaded of my attachment to your glory, and of the sincere friendship with which I shall invariably continue, my dear General, &c.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL ST. CLAIR.
The detachment, of which you will have the command, for the Southward is to consist of the Pensylvania, Maryland, and Virginia Continental Troops. You will march them by the most convenient rout, and in the most expeditious manner, (without fatiguing the Troops,) towards Wilmington in North Carolina, or other Posts in that State; of which you will endeavor to dispossess the enemy, if their situation, from the intelligence you shall receive as you advance, shall in your judgement render it practicable and advisable. If it does not, you will continue your march to the Southern army, and put yourself under the command of Majr.-Genl. Greene.
As Wilmington and other places in No. Ca. may c[e]ase to be objects, from a change of circumstances in the States to the southward of this, it will be necessary for you to open an immediate communication by Letter with General Greene, and govern yourself by his advice and orders; and it may be well to communicate, (in confidence,) to the Executive of the State of North Carolina the enterprise against Wilmington, that you may procure such information and aid as it may be in their power to give. For Ordnance and Stores, and for the means of transportation and other matters in the Quarter Master’s department, you will consult General Knox and Colonel Pickering, and will make your arrangements with the Commissary, or State agent, for supplies of Provision. Given at Head-Quarters, near York in Virginia, this 29th day of October, 1781.
P. S. If there are any men upon detachment, they are to be called in and marched with their regiments. A sufficient number of officers must be left to carry on the sick and invalids as fast as they recover. Some good field-officers should remain to superintend this business.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL LINCOLN.
All the Troops, who are about to return to the northward, will be under your Command; and I entreat you to use every means in your power to hasten them forward by Land or water, or partly by both, as circumstances may require. The Ordnance, and Stores of every kind, must be despatched, or in such train for it, as to need no further cover or aid from the Troops, ’ere they can move from their prest. Encampment. The Ordnance Vessels, and Vessels carrying stores of every other kind, should receive of sick, Invalids, and weak men, as many as they can transport with safety and convenience; after which, if there is not water transportation for the remainder, they must be marched by Land, on the Rout the cavalry, teams, &c., came from the Head of Elk to this place.
For the reputation of the Troops, and preservation of property, you will use your utmost exertions to prevent every species of abuse on the march. Destruction of fences is too often among the wanton injuries, which are committed. A few axes, and strict attention of the officers, will infallibly prevent this, and I trust it will be done. You will be able, after informing yourself of the extent of the water transportation, to determine on the number of men, which must march by land, and make your arrangements with the Quarter-Master-General accordingly. If there are any men upon detachment, they are to be called in and marched with their regiments. A sufficient number of officers must be left to carry on the sick and invalids, as fast as they recover. Some good field-officer should remain to superintend this business. Given at Head-Quarters, this 29th day of October, 1781.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
I do myself the honor of transmitting to your Excellency a letter from General Duportail, in which he explains the motives of an intended application to Congress for permission to go to France, and for the promotion of himself and other officers of his corps. I should conceal sentiments, with which I am very strongly impressed, and do injustice to very conspicuous merit, if I did not upon the present occasion offer my testimony to the distinguished abilities and services, both of General Duportail and Colonel Gouvion. Their claim to the particular attention of Congress at this juncture is founded upon the practice of Europe; sieges being considered as the particular province of the corps of engineers, and as entitling them, when attended with a success important in itself and its consequences, to the great military rewards. These officers, besides, are supported by a series of conduct in the line of their department, which makes them not depend merely upon the present circumstances.
For these reasons, I am induced to recommend General Duportail’s memorial to Congress for the promotions which he specifies, and the leave of absence; the latter being by no means incompatible with the good of the service at the present period, as I am reduced, notwithstanding all my efforts, to the necessity of retiring into winter-quarters. The same principles as those above mentioned forbid me to be silent on the subject of General Knox, who is closely united with General Duportail in the merit of the siege; being at the head of the artillery, which is the other principal instrument in conducting attacks. The resources of his genius have supplied, on this and many other interesting occasions, the defect of means. His distinguished talents and services, equally important and indefatigable, entitle him to the same marks of the approbation of Congress, that they may be pleased to grant to the chief engineer. I am, &c.1
TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE.
Not till the 5th instant, my dear Marquis, was I able to leave York. Engaged in providing for the detachment that was to go Southerly, embarking the Troops that were to go northerly, making a distribution of the Ordnance and Stores for various purposes, and disposing of the officers and other prisoners to their respective places of destination, I could not leave that part of ye country sooner.
On that day I arrived at Eltham, (the Seat of Colonel Bassett,) time enough to see poor Mr. Custis breathe his last.1 This unexpected and affecting event threw Mrs. Washington and Mrs. Custis, who were both present, into such deep distress, that the circumstance of it, and a duty I owed the deceased in assisting at his funeral rites, prevented my reaching this place till the 13th; and business here and on the road will put it out of my power to arrive at Philadelphia before the last days of the prest. month.
As this may extend to a later period than your business in that city may require, I owe it to friendship and to my affectionate regard for you, my dear Marqs., not to let you leave this Country, without carrying with you fresh marks of my attachment to you, and new expressions of the high sense I entertain of your military conduct and other important services in the course of the last campaign, altho’ the latter are too well known to need the testimony of my approbation, and the former I persuade myself you believe is too well riveted to undergo diminution or change.
As you expressed a desire to know my Sentiments respecting the operations of the next Campaign, before your departure for France, I will without a tedious display of reasoning declare in one word, that the advantages of it to America, and the honor and glory of it to the allied arms in these States must depend absolutely upon the naval force, which is employed in these Seas, and the time of its appearance next year. No land force can act decisively, unless it is accompanied by a maritime superiority; nor can more than negative advantages be expected without it. For proof of this, we have only to recur to the instances of the ease and facility with which the British shifted their ground, as advantages were to be obtained at either extremity of the continent, and to their late heavy loss the moment they failed in their naval superiority. To point out the further advantages, which might have been obtained in the course of this year, if Count de Grasse could have waited, and would have covered a further operation to the southward, is unnecessary; because a doubt did not exist nor does at this moment, in any man’s mind, of the total extirpation of the British force in the Carolinas and Georgia, if he could have extended his coöperation two months longer.
It follows then as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it every thing honorable and glorious. A constant naval superiority would terminate the war speedily; without it, I do not know that it will ever be terminated honorably. If this force should appear early, we shall have the whole campaign before us. The months of June to September inclusive are well adapted for operating in any of the States to the northward of this; and the remaining months are equally well suited to those south of it; in which time, with such means, I think much, I will add every thing, might be expected.
How far the policy of Congress may carry them towards filling their Continental battalions does not lay with me to determine. This measure, before and since the capitulation, has been strongly recommended by me. Should it be adopted by that body, and executed with energy in the several States, I think our force, (comprehending the auxiliary troops now here,) will be fully competent to all the purposes of the American war, provided the British force on this continent remains nearly as it now is. But as this is a contingency, which depends very much upon political manœuvres in Europe; and, as it is uncertain how far we may be in a state of preparation at the opening of the next Campaign, the propriety of augmenting the present army under the Comd. of Count de Rochambeau is a question worthy of consideration; but, as it lyes with Congress to determine, I shall be silent on the subject.1
If I should be deprived of the pleasure of a personal interview with you before your departure, permit me my dear Marquis to adopt this method of making you a tender of my ardent Vows for a propitious voyage, a gracious reception from your Prince, an honorable reward of your services, a happy meeting with your lady and friends, and a safe return in the spring to, my dear Marqs., your affectionate friend, &c.
P. S. I beg you to present my best respects to the Viscount de Noailles and let him know that my warmest wishes attend him.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Mount Vernon, 15 November, 1781.
I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your favor of the 31st ultimo, covering the resolutions of Congress of 29th, and a proclamation for a day of public prayer and thanksgiving, and have to thank you, Sir, most sincerely for the very polite and affectionate manner in which these enclosures have been conveyed. The success of the combined Armies, against our enemies at York and Gloucester, as it affects the welfare and independence of the United States, I viewed as a most fortunate event. In performing my part towards its accomplishment, I consider myself to have done only my duty, and in the execution of that I ever feel myself happy; and at the same time, as it augurs well to our cause, I take a particular pleasure in acknowledging, that the interposing hand of Heaven, in the various instances of our extensive preparations for this operation, has been most conspicuous and remarkable.
After the receipt of your favor, I received official information through the secretary of Congress, of the new choice of their president. While I congratulate you, Sir, on a release from the fatigues and troubles of so arduous and important a task, I beg you to accept my sincerest thanks for the pleasure and satisfaction, which I have received in the correspondence with which you have honored me, and the many interesting communications of intelligence with which you have favored me. I am, dear Sir, &c.1
TO BENJAMIN DULANY.
Mount Vernon, 17 November, 1781.
I learn from Mr. Lund Washington, that the land formerly belonging to Mr. Manley2 is again about to be offered for sale, and that you and I are like to be the only competitors in the purchase of it. That I often treated with Mr. Manley in his lifetime, and since his death with his executors for that tract is a fact which cannot be unknown to you; equally true is it, that if the Land is exposed to public sale, I shall bid for it, as far as I think it is worth, but no farther, and as men set different values upon the same thing according to the lights in which it strikes them, and their own mode of estimating its value, it is not at all unlikely but that you may be the purchaser. In the present case, however, I ever was, and still am willing to give the full value of the land; and as a proof of it, should have no objection to the price being fixed by three honest and judicious men, to be indifferently chosen. This I wou’d give.
Having premised this thing, the intention of this letter is to make you a proposition, and explain my motives for it; which, if acceded to, may smooth every difficulty, and prove convenient and beneficial to all parties. It is to purchase the reversion of your land in this neck, at the same time I make that of Mr. Manley’s, if it is for sale. You are, doubtless, well acquainted with the circumstance of this tract, held by Mrs. French; but as no man can have a more perfect knowledge of it than I have, I think myself fully warranted in asserting that in less than ten years from this date, there will be no support to the plantation, and that without the aid of my woodland, it cannot be maintained.
If my reasons are asked, I will add: that, to say nothing of the Plantation itself, great part of which is old and much worn, the present fencing cannot last long; that one half of the plantation at this moment is dependent upon me, for the means of enclosing it; that though I have not a disposition to be unneighborly, by depriving Mrs. French, or you, of the use of my fences, yet this may not be the case with those who follow me; that the woodland for fire and timber, bears no proportion to the quantity of cleared land; and, as has been observed before, will not support the plantation in these articles but a few years longer, especially if all those long lines of fencing which are furnished by me, should be shifted, as is very commonly the case where fields are changed; and, that to depend upon the fencing of another for inclosures, is working land upon a very uncertain tenure, and at too great a hazard to be warranted by prudence; as ill-nature, or even necessity may expose the crops.
That these are facts uncontrovertible, and the reasoning upon them conclusive, none can deny. I mention them to prove, first, that at the same time I discover an inclination to purchase the reversion of your land, I know what value to set on it; and secondly, as an indisputable evidence that sooner or later (if you cannot get some of my woodland) you will, for want of timber and firing, be obliged to part with it to those who have it. And that this must be done to a very great disadvantage, when the period of that necessity is absolutely felt, and the land is more exhausted, is evident to common sense.
It may be asked, why, under these disadvantages, I would choose to be the purchaser? The answer is plain, and I shall candidly give it to you: For besides having timber to supply all the wants of your land, it is my wish, altho’ it shou’d not fall into my hands immediately, to have in expectation, by reversion, all the lands in this Neck, that I may without loss of time, proceed to the enclosing of it by a large ditch, and strong post rail fence on the outer boundary of it. This, Sir, and the prospect of having the exclusive possession of the whole neck, I declare to you upon my honor, are my motives for buying. It is not the real want of land (for I have already more than I have hands to work) nor the extraordinary value of this tract that prompts me to the measure. From a full conviction that I cannot in the course of nature, remain long upon this theater, I have a desire to see such things as are within my reach, accomplished as soon as possible. On this principle it is, I shall go as far to purchase Mr. Manley’s land as I can conceive it is worth. If the prospect of long life was before me, and I had a mind to play the politician, it would be my interest to let Mr. Manley’s land fall into your hands without a single bid for it on my part; because having a scarcity of fencing yourself, and his land, I believe, not a stick of timber upon it, it would so much increase the demand upon the little you have, as to involve at an earlier period, the consequence I have foretold.
Having dealt thus freely and frankly in describing the true situation and circumstances of these lands, and my motives to purchase them, I shall conclude with repeating that I will take the land of Mr. Manley at the price any three honest and judicious men, indifferently chosen, shall fix upon it. That I will do the same thing with respect to yours, if you incline to sell, or if you will fix the price yourself (having a just regard to the quality and circumstances of the land) I will give it, without haggling; an allowance being made by men of judgment, conversant in these things for Mrs. French’s life, if she chooses to hold it.
I shall offer no apology for making you these proposals. My meaning is good, and my offers are generous. They will stand the test of examination; and it is my wish, that all the parties concerned (vizt. Mrs. Dulany, Mrs. French, and Mr. Triplet, executor of Mr. Manley) may be consulted. If my proposals and observations are good, they will be struck with the force of them; if they are not, my mistake arises from viewing things in a wrong point of view.
I persuade myself that there is too much liberality in your way of thinking to suppose, that because I have frankly declared my motives for making these proposals, and have made generous offers towards purchasing your land, that I shall set no bounds to my prices, in order to obtain it. I as frankly declare, that this is not my intention. I will give the full value, but no more. The whole tenor of my conduct hitherto in this business must have evinced this, and will more than probably convince Mr. Barry (or rather Mr. Wren his oracle) who was ever afraid to accept the price that was offered for his land, lest more could be had,—of the folly and impolicy of a narrow way of thinking, and give him cause, if I should withhold the same offer in future, to accompany it with repentance. I am &c.1
TO GEORGE PLATER, PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE, AND THOMAS COCKEY DEY, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF DELEGATES, OF MARYLAND.
Annapolis, 22 November, 1781.
I very sensibly feel the honor, which has this day been conferred upon me by the vote of thanks of so respectable a body, as that of the General Assembly of the State of Maryland. The regard, which they have been pleased to express for me personally, the delicate manner in which they have recalled to view those distant events, which in some degree led to our present happy situation, and the general approbation, which they have generously bestowed, upon the whole of my conduct, must ever secure to them my warmest esteem, and must at the same time operate as fresh incentives to merit their future good opinion.
It is with the highest degree of pleasure I observe, that a proper allowance has been made for the capital share, which the land and sea forces of our great and good ally had in the reduction of the common enemy at York in Virginia. I should deem myself unpardonable, were I not upon every occasion, more especially upon such a one as the present, to declare, that to the sound counsels and vigorous exertions of their Excellencies Count de Rochambeau and Count de Grasse much, very much, was owing.
While I agree in sentiment with the honorable bodies over which you preside, that we may entertain a rational ground of belief, that, under the favor of Divine Providence, the freedom, independence, and happiness of America will shortly be established upon the surest foundation, I think it a duty incumbent upon me to observe, that those most desirable objects are not to be fully attained but by a continuance of those exertions, which have already so greatly humbled the power of our inveterate enemies. Relaxation upon our part will give them time to recollect and recover themselves; whereas a vigorous prosecution of the war must inevitably crush their remaining force in these States, or put them to the necessity of entirely withdrawing themselves.
I cannot conclude without expressing my warmest wishes for the prosperity of a State, which has ever stood among the foremost in her support of the common cause. I confess myself under particular obligations for the ready attention, which I have ever experienced to those requisitions, which, in the course of my duty, I have occasionally been under the necessity of making. I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO GOVERNOR TRUMBULL.
Philadelphia, 28 November, 1781.
I have the honor to acknowledge your favor of the 6th instant, and to thank your Excellency with great sincerity for the very cordial and affectionate congratulations, which you are pleased to express on our late success in Virginia.
I most earnestly hope, that this event may be productive of the happy consequences you mention; and I think that its good effects cannot fail to be very extensive, unless, from a mistaken idea of the magnitude of this success, unhappily a spirit of remissness should seize the minds of the States, and they should set themselves down in quiet with a delusive hope of the contest being brought to a close. I hope this may not be the case. To prevent so great an evil shall be my study and endeavor; and I cannot but flatter myself, that the States, rather than relax in their exertions, will be stimulated to the most vigorous preparations for another active, glorious, and decisive campaign, which, if properly prosecuted will, I trust, under the smiles of Heaven, lead us to the end of this long and tedious war, and set us down in the full security of the great object of our toils, the establishment of peace, liberty, and independence.
Whatever may be the policy of European courts during this winter, their negotiation will prove too precarious a dependence for us to trust to. Our wisdom should dictate a serious preparation for war, and in that state we shall find ourselves in a situation secure against every event. * * *
TO JAMES McHENRY.
Philadelphia, 11 December, 1781.
I have received your favor of the 3d Inst. inclosing your Resignation which I have delivered in to the Secy. at War. I am convinced your transition from the Military to the Civil Line will be attended with good consequences, as you will be able to communicate that kind of information to the Body of which you are now a member, which they often stand in need of in times like the present—and as you seem of opinion that my sentiments on public affairs will give weight to your endeavors, I with great pleasure open a correspondence on that subject.
You know it is an old and true Maxim that to make a good peace, you ought to be well prepared to carry on the War. This, the sentiment of our Ally, is not only strongly pressed upon Congress by his Minister here, but by the Gentlemen at the heads of our three great departments—Finance, Foreign Affairs and War. My stay in Town is merely to assist in and forward the several arrangements which are upon the carpet, and I believe you are sufficiently acquainted with me to suppose that I do not fail to urge vigorous measures. I am happy in finding no want of disposition in Congress to adopt the measures recommended by their Committees and their executive officers—The requisitions which they have made and which they will shortly make upon the States will evince this—It will afterwards lay with the States to determine whether we are, early in the next Campaign, to take advantage of what we have gained this, or whether we are as usual to suffer the enemy to bring their reinforcements from Europe before we draw ours from the neighborhood of the army as it were.
I need not say more to you at this time—indeed I hope you will have no occasion to make use of the hints I have given—For I have the highest opinion of the good will and Vigor of your Legislature.
I am &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL GREENE.
Philadelphia, 15 December, 1781.
My Dear Sir,
I have successively received your favors of the 30th of October and 2d and 21st of November.
I thank you for your kind congratulations on an event, which is certainly most important, considered in a public view, and which adds to my personal satisfaction, by finding that it in some degree relieves you from that load of difficulty and distress, with which you had so long been contending. The evacuation of the State of North Carolina is another very fortunate circumstance.1
I presented your recommendation of Colonel Williams to Congress, backed by my own; the expediency of filling up the vacant brigadierships is among other matters now under consideration; and, if thought proper at this time, there is no doubt of Colonel Williams being promoted.2
I hope General St. Clair has before or by this time joined you. The enemy have sent no reinforcement from New York to Charleston, nor do I learn that any preparations are making for such a measure. If it should be the opinion, that the British force in South Carolina is adequate to the maintenance of Charleston, I should not be surprised, if Sir Henry Clinton was to content himself with acting upon the defensive in that quarter, at least until the pleasure of the ministry can be known; because an additional force, sufficient to regain and make establishments in the country, is more than can well be spared from New York. I am informed, the English prints of a late date speak of a reinforcement preparing from thence for Carolina and Florida; and I think it not at all improbable, for I fancy Lord Cornwallis’s private despatches, after the battle of Guilford, painted his affairs in no very favorable light.
I am apprehensive that the States, elated by the late success, and taking it for granted that Great Britain will no longer support so losing a contest, will relax in their preparations for the next campaign. I am detained here by Congress to assist in the arrangements for the next year; and I shall not fail, in conjunction with the financier, minister for foreign affairs, and secretary of war, who are all most heartily well disposed, to impress upon Congress, and get them to impress upon the respective States, the necessity of the most vigorous exertions. I am sorry that Major Hyrne’s indisposition has prevented the transmission of the lists of prisoners, as the Commissary General who is now at Elizabethtown negotiating an exchange may find himself at a loss for want of them. He is proceeding upon a return which Genl. Moultrie furnished and which I believe was taken from Major Hyrne’s books. Should it appear that any characters have been omitted, it can easily be rectified as we shall have a considerable balance of officers remaining in our hands.
I really know not what to say on the subject of retaliation. Congress have it under consideration, and we must await their determination. Of this I am convinced, that of all laws it is the most difficult to execute, where you have not the transgressor himself in your possession. Humanity will ever interfere and plead strongly against the sacrifice of an innocent person for the guilt of another; and, as to destruction of property within the enemy’s lines, it is in fact destroying our own. It will be to the eternal disgrace of the nation, which drives us to the disagreeable necessity of thinking of means to curb their barbarity.1 I am with the warmest sentiments of esteem, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Philadelphia, 27 December, 1781.
I have been honored with the resolve of the 20th instant, directing me to make inquiry into the powers and conduct of the Board of Directors to the Associated Loyalists in New York.1 I shall pursue such steps as will be most likely to promote the ends which Congress have in view.
I have taken the liberty of enclosing the copies of two letters of the 23d and 24th instant from the commissary-general of prisoners, setting forth the debt, which is due from us on account of naval prisoners, the number remaining in captivity, their miserable situation, and the little probability there is of procuring their release for want of proper subjects in our hands.
Before we proceed to an inquiry into the measures, which ought to be adopted to enable us to pay off our debt, and to effect the exchange of those, who still remain in captivity, a matter which it may take up some time to determine, humanity and policy point out the necessity of administering to the pressing wants of a number of the most valuable subjects of the republic. Had they been taken in Continental service, I should have thought myself authorized, in conjunction with the minister of war, to have applied a remedy; but as the greater part of them were not thus taken, as appears by Mr. Skinner’s representation, I must await the decision of Congress upon the subject. Had a system, some time past planned by Congress and recommended to the several States, been adopted and carried fully into execution, I mean that of obliging all captains of private vessels to deliver over their prisoners to the Continental commissaries upon certain conditions, I am persuaded that the numbers taken and brought into the many ports of the United States would have amounted to a sufficiency to have exchanged those taken from us; but, instead of that, it is to be feared, that few in proportion are secured, and that the few, which are sent in, are so partially applied, that it creates great disgust in those remaining. The consequence of which is, that, conceiving themselves neglected and seeing no prospect of relief, many of them enter into the enemy’s service, to the very great injury of our trading interest. Congress will, therefore, I hope, see the necessity of renewing their former or making some similar recommendation to the States.
In addition to the motives above mentioned, for wishing that the whole business of prisoners of war might be brought under one general regulation, is another of no small consideration, which is, that it would probably put a stop to those mutual complaints of ill treatment, which are frequently urged on either part. For it is a fact, that, for about two years, we have had no reason to complain of the treatment of the Continental land prisoners in New York, neither have we been charged with any improper conduct towards those in our hands. I consider the sufferings of the seamen for some time past, as arising in a great measure from the want of that general regulation, which has been spoken of, and without which there will constantly be a great number remaining in the hands of the enemy. I have the honor to be, &c.1
[1 ]In consequence of the memorable defeat of the British detachment under Colonel Ferguson at King’s Mountain, Lord Rawdon, by order of Lord Cornwallis, wrote to General Leslie, then in the Chesapeake, suggesting the expediency of his advancing to North Carolina. “No force has presented itself to us,” said Lord Rawdon, “whose opposition could be thought serious to this army; but then we have little hopes of ever bringing the affair to an action. The enemy are mostly mounted militia, not to be overtaken by our infantry, nor to be safely pursued in this strong country by our cavalry. Our fear is, that, instead of meeting us, they would slip by us into this province were we to proceed far from it, and might again stimulate the disaffected to serious insurrection. This apprehension must greatly circumscribe our efforts.”—Lord Rawdon to General Leslie, October 24th. For these reasons a speedy co-operation was desired, but not ordered. It was left wholly to the discretion of General Leslie, who, on receiving this letter, resolved to move as soon as possible by water to Cape Fear River. That his purpose might be unsuspected, he engaged pilots for James River, and nobody but himself and two officers were entrusted with the secret of his destination. He left the Chesapeake on the 24th of November, and went to sea. He did not stop at Cape Fear, as he at first proposed, but arrived in Charleston on the 13th of December, after a tempestuous voyage; and marched thence with a large part of his force to form a junction with Lord Cornwallis.
[1 ]Read in Congress, January 8th.
[1 ]On January 6th, Clinton, who received intelligence of the revolt at the same hour as Washington, sent about five thousand men, under the command of General Robertson, to Staten Island, to receive and protect the mutineers should they seek to join the British.
[1 ]The Pennsylvania line, by the new arrangement of the army, had been reduced from eleven to six regiments. These were stationed for the winter in the huts near Morristown, which had been occupied by the army as winter-quarters the preceding year. The regiments were under the immediate command of General Wayne, who wrote as follows in the letter of which Major Fishbourn was the bearer.
[1 ]“You will proceed with the despatches, with which you are charged, to the governors of the States of Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and to the president of New Hampshire. You are acquainted with the subject of those despatches, in which the Gentlemen to whom they are addressed are referred to you for more particular account of the situation of the Army, the causes of discontent in it, and the probable means of giving satisfaction to the Soldiery. Upon the first two heads, you have no need of any instructions. What seems to me most essentially necessary to answer the end of the third, is an immediate supply of Money and Cloathing; of the first a sum equal to three months’ pay at least of the new emission, or some other of equal value; of the last a compleat Suit of Clothes, not only for the Men now in service, but for the number of Recruits who are to join.
[1 ]Read in Congress, January 15th.
[1 ]When the news of the revolt reached Philadelphia, a committee was appointed by Congress, at six o’clock on January 3d, consisting of General Sullivan, Mr. Witherspoon, and Mr. Mathews, who were instructed to confer with the executive of Pennsylvania on the subject. This committee, and Governor Reed on the part of the Council of Pennsylvania, set off to meet the troops. On the 5th Mr. Bland and Mr. Atlee were added to the congressional committee. Meantime General Wayne remained with them at Princeton. It was ascertained that overtures were about to be made to the insurgents by the enemy, to which it was feared they would listen, and for two or three days the officers were in a state of extreme anxiety. They were somewhat relieved by an incident, which is thus related in a letter from General Wayne:
[1 ]“I think it appears by the letter, which has fallen into your hands, that there has not been much if any intercourse between the mutineers and Sir Henry Clinton; and, if the future correspondence can be intercepted, it will embarrass the British and the troops. You will have been the best judge of the kind of answer, which it would be proper to give to Sir Henry’s message; but as we had not force sufficient to wish to decoy him out, perhaps it will have been most prudent to answer him in the negative. I am certain, that, in consequence of my letter of the 8th to General Wayne, every offer that could with propriety be made has been made. What further is to be done can be better judged by you on the spot, than by me at a distance. The steps you have hitherto taken are judicious and strictly proper. Be pleased to thank the Marquis and Colonel Laurens for their letters, which a press of business prevents me from answering.”—Washington to St. Clair, 10 January, 1781.
[1 ]Five battalions, four being New England troops, and the fifth made up of Hazen’s corps, were drawn out on marching orders, to be commanded by Major-General Robert Howe.
[1 ]In a letter from General Wayne, of the same date as the above, he says: “The conditions now made and agreed to are the joint act of the committee of Congress and the governor of Pennsylvania, to whom the former delegated their powers. The mutineers as yet hold command, but we have expectations of reclaiming it, in appearance at least, either this evening or to-morrow morning. However, I believe it will be the most advisable measure to dissolve the line, and collect it anew, as well and expeditiously as we can. The spies were executed yesterday pursuant to their sentence.”—Trenton, January 12th.
[2 ]In conformity with the instructions from Congress to Colonel Laurens, that he should consult General Washington on the objects of his mission before his departure for France, he proceeded to head-quarters for that purpose. The substance of their consultations was embodied in the form of a letter, which it was intended Colonel Laurens should use in such a manner as he might think proper. He introduced copious extracts from it into a memorial, which he presented to Count de Vergennes, and which is contained in the Diplomatic Correspondence of the American Revolution, vol. ix., p. 211. Those extracts differ in some slight particulars from the copy here printed, which is taken from General Washington’s letter-books. The original letter, in the handwriting of General Washington, was likewise sent to Count de Vergennes, by Colonel Laurens or Dr. Franklin, and is still preserved among the American Papers in the Archives of Foreign Affairs in Paris.—Sparks.
[1 ]In introducing Col. Laurens to Franklin, Washington wrote:
[1 ]“There is a coolness between Washington and M. de Rochambeau; the dissatisfaction is on the part of the American General, ours is ignorant of the reason. He has given me orders to go with a letter from him and to inform myself of the reason for his discontent, to heal the breach if possible, or if the affair be more grave to report to him the cause.”—Fersen, to his Father, 14 January, 1781. A letter from Rochambeau to Washington, dated 13th January introduces the Count de Charlus, son of the Marquis de Castries, but there is no hint of differences. His next is dated the 20th.
[1 ]Read in Congress, January 23d.
[2 ]Mrs. Bache was one of the ladies who superintended the contributions in Philadelphia for the benefit of the soldiers. She wrote to General Washington: “We packed up the shirts in three boxes, and delivered them to Colonel Miles, with a request that he would send them to Trenton immediately, lest the river should close; where they now wait your Excellency’s orders. There are two thousand and five in number. They would have been at camp long before this, had not the general sickness prevented. We wish them to be worn with as much pleasure as they were made.”
[1 ]Mrs. Bache was the daughter of Dr. Franklin, and she had said: “My father, in one of his last letters, says, ‘If you see General Washington, assure him of my very great and sincere respect, and tell him that all the old generals here amuse themselves in studying the accounts of his operations, and approve highly of his conduct.’ ”
[2 ]Two colonels of this name were with the French army, Count Christian and Count Guillaume.
[1 ]Count Arthur Dillon, of Lauzun’s legion.
[2 ]M. Dumas, one of Rochambeau’s aids.
[1 ]New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New York. The letters were different in unimportant details.
[1 ]Washington received from Col. Shreve intelligence of revolt of the Jersey line at 10 o’clock on the night of the 21st, and ordered Heath to make a detachment of five or six hundred men from the garrison of West Point, “of the most robust and best cloathed, properly officered and provided.” He wrote that he would be at the Point in the morning. He wrote to Shreve, should he have sufficient force, to “compel the mutineers to unconditional submission. The more decisively you are able to act the better.” To Col. Frelinghuysen: “I must entreat you to employ all your influence to inspire the militia with a disposition to coöperate with us, by representing the fatal consequences of the present temper of the soldiery not only to military subordination but to civil liberty. In reality both are fundamentally struck at by their undertaking in arms to dictate terms to their country.”—21 January, 1781. And to Governor Livingston: “I doubt not we shall derive every aid from the good people of your state in suppressing this mutiny, not only from a conviction of the dangerous tendency of such proceedings to effect the entire dissolution of the army, but, as it may effect civil as well as military authority to have a redress of grievances demanded with arms, and also from a sense of the unreasonable conduct of the Jersey troops in revolting at a time when the State was exerting itself to redress all their real grievances.”—23 January, 1781.
[1 ]This letter was answered by Admiral Arbuthnot, three months after its date, as follows:
“Royal Oak, offNew York, 21 April, 1781.
“If I had not been very busy, when I received your letter dated the 25th of January last, complaining of the treatment of the naval prisoners at this place, I certainly should have answered it before this time; and, notwithstanding I then thought, as I now do, that my own testimony would have been sufficient to put the truth past a doubt, I ordered the strictest scrutiny to be made into the conduct of all parties concerned in the victualling and treatment of those unfortunate people. Their several testimonies you must have seen, and I give you my honor, that the transaction was conducted with such strict care and impartiality, that you may rely on its validity.
“Permit me now, Sir, to request, that you will take the proper steps to cause Mr. Bradford, your commissary, and the jailor at Philadelphia, to abate that inhumanity, which they exercise indiscriminately upon all people, who are so unfortunate as to be carried into that place. I will not trouble you, Sir, with a catalogue of grievances, further than to request, that the unfortunate may feel as little of the severities of war, as the circumstances of the time will permit, that in future they may not be fed in winter with salted clams, and that they may be afforded a sufficiency of fuel.”
[1 ]“The mutineers were unexpectedly surrounded and awed into an unconditional surrender with little hesitation and no resistance. Two of the principal actors were executed on the spot, the rest pardoned. The spirit of mutiny seems now to have completely subsided, and to have given place to a genuine repentance. This was very far from being the case previous to this step, notwithstanding the apparent submission which the assurances of redress had produced: they still continued insolent and refractory, and disobedient to the commands of their officers. A general pardon was promised by Colonel Dayton, on condition of an immediate and full return to duty. This condition was not performed on the part of the mutineers, and of course they were not entitled to the benefit of the promise, besides which the existence of the army called for an example.”—Washington to Governor Livingston, 27 January, 1781. The two persons executed were David Gilmore of the Somerset County regiment, and Isaac Tuttle of the Morris County regiment. The mutineers were said to have been led by one George Grant, a sergeant-major of the 3d New Jersey regiment, and a deserter from the British.
[1 ]“You will have heard of the defection of the Pennsylvania line, and the disagreeable compromise made with them. It has ended in a temporary dissolution of the line. One half has been absolutely discharged, and the remainder have been furloughed to reassemble in the beginning of April. The oaths of the men respecting the terms of their enlistments were precipitately admitted before the documents could be produced; by which it afterwards appeared, that the greater part had perjured themselves to get rid of the service. We had it not in our power to employ coercion in the first instance, owing to the distance they were from the main army, and a variety of other impediments, which you will easily conceive. I am told the line will soon be re-established on a better footing by new enlistments. Fortunately a part of the Jersey line since followed their example, and gave us an opportunity, after compelling all the mutineers to an unconditional surrender, to make examples of two of the most active leaders. The perfect submission and penitence, which appeared, made it unadvisable to extend the severity. I believe we shall have no more trouble at present from a spirit of this kind.”—Washington to Steuben, 6 February, 1781.
[1 ]Washington wrote Robinson.
[2 ]General Robertson was on Staten Island with a large detachment of British troops, watching the movements in Jersey, and prepared, as it was supposed, to make an incursion for the purpose either of drawing over the malecontents, or of striking a blow in that quarter, as circumstances might seem to warrant.
[1 ]Read in Congress, February 9th. Referred to Jones, McDougall, and Sullivan.
[1 ]In reply to this passage General Sullivan said: “I am glad to find, that you entertain the same sentiments of the virtues and abilities of Colonel Hamilton, as I have ever done myself. After I wrote, I found the eyes of Congress turned upon Robert Morris as financier. I did not therefore nominate Colonel Hamilton, as I foresaw it would be a vain attempt.”—March 6th. A few days afterwards, Robert Morris was chosen, Samuel Adams and General Ward, of the Massachusetts delegation, declining to ballot.
[1 ]“I am equally well pleased at the relinquishment of the claim of Virginia to the land west of Ohio. Individual, as well as general policy, in my opinion, required it of her; for I am sure she never could govern the settlers of that extensive country. I hope the reservations are not exceptionable ones.”—Washington to John Mathews, 14 February, 1781.
[1 ]The British squadron, employed in blockading the French fleet at Newport, was stationed during the winter in Gardiner’s Bay at the east end of Long Island. The vessels were anchored in a line between Gardiner’s Island and Plum Island. The naval force kept on this station was of course superior to that of the French at Newport. It consisted of one ship of ninety guns, four of seventy-four, three of sixty-four, one of fifty, and two or three frigates.
[1 ]Mrs. Reed of Philadelphia, who had been principally active in originating the association of ladies for collecting contributions in aid of the soldiers.
[1 ]M. de Saint Mesme was colonel of the Soissonnais regiment.
[2 ]These advices were from Count de Rochambeau, dated February 3d, hinting at a plan proposed by M. Destouches for despatching three or four vessels of his squadron to the Chesapeake, as mentioned heretofore. The idea appeared in so favorable a light to Washington, that, although he was on the eve of a departure for Newport, he delayed his journey to prepare for sending a detachment of land forces to co-operate with such an expedition.
[1 ]As Count de Rochambeau did not receive this letter till the 19th, which was ten days after the departure of M. de Tilly’s detachment, it was not then practicable for him and M. Destouches to unite in carrying the plan here suggested into effect; more especially as the British blockading squadron had been strengthened by repairing the disabled vessels, and that of M. Destouches was weakened by the absence of three of his ships. In this state of things there would be too great a risk in going to sea with a force so much inferior. Count de Rochambeau wrote, that, if the above plan had come to his hands before the sailing of the detachment to Virginia, it was probable M. Destouches would have determined to go out with his whole fleet, and in that case he should have spared one thousand land troops for the enterprise.
[1 ]When this letter was written, the departure of M. de Tilly’s little squadron for the Chesapeake seems not to have been known, although it took place ten days before; but the intelligence must have come quickly after writing the letter, as it is mentioned in the instructions to Lafayette the next day. M. de Tilly returned to Newport on the 24th of February, having been absent only fifteen days. Near the entrance of the Chesapeake Bay he captured the Romulus, a British frigate of forty-four guns. He also took two privateers, one of eighteen and the other of fourteen guns, sent four prizes to Yorktown, and burnt four others. About five hundred prisoners were taken. Admiral Arbuthnot had sent a messenger to Arnold, giving intelligence of the approach of the French squadron, and had thus put him on his guard. He had withdrawn his frigates, one of forty-four and two others of thirty-two guns each, so high up the Elizabeth River, that they could not be approached by the Eveillé, the largest French vessel; and one of the French frigates, the Surveillante, ran aground in that river, and was got off only by taking out her guns and casks of water. An extract from M. de Tilly’s letter to the Chevalier de la Luzerne will explain his situation and the motives for his return.
[1 ]A detachment under Brigadier-General Parsons and Colonel Hull had destroyed the barracks and some forage at Morrisania, belonging to Delancey’s corps, taken fifty-two prisoners, brought off some horses and cattle, and destroyed a bridge across the Harlem. The enterprise was effected on the night of January 21st, and merited the “highest praise.”
[1 ]Read in Congress, February 26th. Referred to the Board of War.
[2 ]The letter is thus worded, but the sense is incomplete. Burgoyne is probably intended.
[1 ]This letter was accompanied by the following note: “The enclosed are your instructions, in the prosecution of which, if you should receive authentic intelligence of the enemy’s having left Virginia, or, by adverse fortune, the detachment from Monsieur Destouches has lost its superiority in that State, and is disabled thereby to coöperate, you will return with the detachment under your command, as the enemy cannot be affected by it while they have the command of the waters; but the detachment may be capitally injured by committing itself on the water.”
[1 ]This matter is mentioned in Austin, Life of Elbridge Gerry, i., 337-344.
[1 ]“Congress, as you will have been informed, have determined that the Pennsylvania line shall compose part of the southern army, and have ordered it to proceed to Virginia in detachments, as they may be in readiness to march. I have given General St. Clair directions to carry the resolve into execution as expeditiously as possible. I think it essential, that one of the brigadiers should proceed with the first detachment, that he may be at hand to receive and form the remainder as they arrive. This may be the more necessary, as the presence of an officer of authority and rank may be requisite to restore that discipline, which the late convulsion will have in some degree destroyed. General Irvine being employed upon the recruiting business, this duty of course devolves upon you.
[1 ]Report of a naval engagement between Count d’Estaing and Admiral Hood in the West Indies, which proved not to be well founded.
[2 ]Immediately after the return of the three vessels from the Chesapeake, M. Destouches resolved to set on foot another expedition with his whole naval force.
[1 ]From Count de Rochambeau’s reply: “I have received your Excellency’s favor of the 24th instant. All that regards the land forces will be ready in twenty-four hours, but the navy may yet be eight days before every thing will be ready on her part. Be assured, that, on my part, nothing shall be wanting to make the greatest diligence.”—February 27th.
[1 ]A separate letter, according to the draft.
[2 ]Intelligence had come from New York that three hundred horsemen had crossed over to Long Island and proceeded eastward, and that boats had at the same time been sent up the Sound. It was inferred that this party would pass from Long Island to Connecticut, and attempt to intercept General Washington on his way to Newport, as it was supposed his intended journey was known to the enemy. Lafayette suggested, that the Duke de Lauzun should be informed of this movement as soon as possible, that he might be prepared with his cavalry, then stationed at Lebanon, to repel the invaders.
[3 ]The party which landed at Cape Fear consisted of three hundred men detached from Charleston under Major Craig.
[1 ]Read in Congress, March 2d.
[1 ]On the arrival of Colonel Laurens in Boston, January 25th, he found that the Alliance had not completed her crew, and that the prospect of soon doing it was extremely unfavorable. The Massachusetts Navy Board encouraged him to believe that the power of impressing seamen for this special service might be obtained from the legislature; and, while the Board was pursuing the application, he made a short visit to Count de Rochambeau at Newport, whom it was important for him to consult on the subject of his mission. The legislature declined granting the power to impress, and the rumor that such a thing was in agitation had so alarmed the sailors, that some concealed themselves, and others fled from the town. When Colonel Laurens returned, therefore, very little progress had been made in obtaining men. The legislature offered an increased bounty out of their own chest, with permission to enlist State troops then on duty at the Castle. Several recruits were thus procured; but still there was a deficiency, which General Lincoln made up by taking men from the Continental troops, who were qualified for the marine service. Colonel Laurens went to sea on the 13th of February, after having been wind-bound for several days in Nantasket Road.—MS. Letters of Lincoln and Laurens, February 4th and 15th.—Sparks.
[1 ]General Washington left head-quarters on the 2d. “This day [6th] General Washington, who was expected, arrived [at Newport] about two o’clock. He first went to the Due de Burgogne, where all our generals were. He then landed; all the troops were under arms; I was presented to him. His face is handsome, noble and mild. He is tall (at the least, five feet, eight inches). In the evening, I was at supper with him. I mark as a fortunate day, that in which I have been able to behold a man so truly great.”—Journal of Claude Blanchard, 93. The land forces were embarked, and the fleet sailed on the evening of the 8th, and on the 10th the British fleet sailed from Gardiner’s Bay, for the Chesapeake. He remained several days at Newport, and made such arrangements with Count de Rochambeau for the operations of the campaign, as the present state of affairs would warrant. He was absent nineteen days from New Windsor, during which time General Heath commanded.
[1 ]“I arrived, my dear Chevalr., at these my Quarters in the forenoon of yesterday, after passing over very bad roads, and riding thro’ very foul weather without any damage. . . . G. Britain is at war with the Dutch. The manifesto and declaration of that court I have done myself the honr. to transmit to the Count de Rochambeau. We have it by report, that Adml. Destouches is safe arrived in Hampton Road. A number of militia under the command of Baron de Steuben were hovering round Arnold, ready to cooperate with Genl. Vioménil and the Marqs. de Lafayette, in the moment of their debarkation; the latter of whom had advanced his detachment to Annapolis, to receive more readily the protection and convoy of the Frigates of M. Destouches.”—Washington to the Chevalier de Chastellux, 21 March, 1781.
[1 ]The paper containing the complaint was signed by seven field-officers. After speaking of their services and sacrifices in the army, and their devotedness to the cause of their country, they add: “We flatter ourselves, that we have gained and possess the affection of our soldiery. We have certainly so much confidence in them, that we are willing to accompany them not only on tours of honor, but to encounter with them fatigues and danger, which we think we have a right to expect. But we are sorry to have so far lost the confidence of our general officers, that, when considerably more than one half of our men have been detached for command, one field-officer only from the line has been permitted to attend them, while nine remain to endure the sensible mortification of commanding between them a less number, the greater part of whom are on detached and extra service. Things thus circumstanced must pointedly wound the feelings of a military character, and they do certainly most sensibly ours.” This complaint was presented to General Heath, and was forwarded by him to the Commander-in-chief.
[1 ]The result of this uneasiness in the officers was the sudden determination on the part of Washington to recall the detachment under Lafayette in the south, and to form a new one which would determine the grievances. The situation of Greene, however, led to a change of orders. See Washington to Lafayette, 6 April, 1781.
[1 ]See Washington to Rochambeau 30 April, 1781.
[1 ]“We have, as you very justly observe, abundant reasons to thank Providence for its many favorable interpositions in our behalf. It has at times been my only dependence, for all other resources seemed to have failed us.”—Washington to William Gordon, 9 March, 1781.
[1 ]Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates.
[1 ]A letter, intercepted by the British, and printed in the New York Gazette, 4 April, 1781. It will also be found in the Annual Register, 1781.
[1 ]The battle of Guilford Court-House, in North Carolina, fought on the 15th of March.
[1 ]This number included only the soldiers. By the adjutant’s return there were also thirty-one officers, commissioned and non-commissioned, and eight drummers and fifers, among the killed, wounded, and missing.
[1 ]Read in Congress, 12 April, 1781.
[1 ]The italicized parts of this letter were written in cypher.
[1 ]The British had contrived to keep a fortified post at Penobscot, which at this time contained a garrison of about three hundred and fifty men. The Council of Massachusetts thought a good opportunity now presented itself, while the British fleet was in the Chesapeake, to employ the idle hours of the French in an enterprise against Penobscot. Proposals to that effect were made through a deputation, and accepted. M. Destouches agreed to furnish two sixty-fours, two frigates, and a smaller vessel, and preparations were immediately begun. A land force of six hundred men was offered by Count de Rochambeau, and also four mortars, and four twenty-four-pounders. The Chevalier de Chastellux was to command. At first it was expected that Massachusetts would furnish militia; but this part of the plan was given up, and Count de Rochambeau proposed to enlarge his force to eight hundred men. After all the arrangements had been put in train, the project was finally abandoned, in consequence of the apprehension of M. Destouches, that a superior British naval force would come upon some parts of his squadron while in a divided state.—MS. Letters of Rochambeau and Destouches, April 6th, 7th, 15th.
[1 ]An attempt upon New York.
[1 ]President of Congress to General Washington: “I have the honor of transmitting to your Excellency the enclosed resolve of the 3d instant, directing the recall of Lieutenant-General Burgoyne, and all other officers, prisoners of war, now absent on their paroles from America, to return immediately.
[1 ]From General Greene’s Letter: “Our force, as you will see by the returns, was respectable, and the probability of not being able to keep it long in the field, and the difficulty of subsisting men in this exhausted country, together with the great advantages which would result from the action, if we were victorious, and the little injury if otherwise, determined me to bring on an action as soon as possible. When both parties are agreed in a matter, all obstacles are soon removed. I thought the determination warranted by the soundest principles of good policy, and I hope the event will prove it so, though we were unfortunate. I regret nothing so much as the loss of my artillery, though it was of little use to us, nor can it be, in this great wilderness. However, as the enemy have it, we must also.
[1 ]Mutiny of the Pennsylvania line.
[1 ]Lafayette to Washington: “A letter from you, relating to the delays of the French, makes a great noise at Philadelphia. Indeed, it gives me pain on many political accounts. There are many confidential communications, which you once requested from me, and which my peculiar situation with both sides of the alliance would enable me to make; but having been ordered from you, and many things I had to say not being of a nature, which would render it prudent to commit them to paper, these personal services must be out of the question so long as the war continues in Carolina.”—Susquehanna Ferry, April 15th.
[1 ]A mail had been intercepted and carried into New York, in which was a private letter, dated March 28th, from General Washington to Lund Washington at Mount Vernon. That letter was printed in Rivington’s Gazette, 4 April, 1781. The paragraph complained of was substantially that contained in the letter to William Fitzhugh, 25 March, 1781, ante, and occurs in a number of Washington’s letters to his friends.
[1 ]Alluding to a personal difference that had occurrred between Washington and his aide-de-camp Colonel Hamilton. The particulars may be seen in the Works of Alexander Hamilton (Lodge’s edition), viii., 35.
[1 ]An attack upon New York. Colonel Laurens wrote from Paris, on the 11th of April, that “the ministry did not seem to approve of the siege of New York as an operation for the ensuing campaign.” The letter containing this intelligence could not have been received by Washington at the date of the above to Lafayette.
[2 ]The coming of the second French division.
[1 ]Having received a commission in the army of the United States, in consequence of a resolution of Congress for granting commissions to aides-de-camp, Colonel Hamilton applied for actual employment in a light corps. He was not now an aide-de-camp.
[1 ]After quoting the extract from the letter to Lund Washington, Count de Rochambeau said:
[1 ]In M. de Rochambeau’s reply to the above, he expressed himself entirely satisfied. See a further explanation in the note appended to the letter to General Schuyler, March 23d; and in the letter to the Marquis de Lafayette, April 22d.
[1 ]Culper, Sr., and Culper, Jr.
[1 ]General Washington commenced a Diary on the 1st of May, to which he prefixed the following remarks.
[1 ]Lafayette obtained some clothing for his troops by pledging his own credit.
[1 ]“I have been obliged, from the distress to which we were reduced for want of provision, to apply 9,000 dollars of the new emission, of the money sent by the State of Massachusetts for the payment of her Troops, to the use of the Quarter Master’s department, to enable him to bring forward Flour from Jersey and salt meat from Connecticut. Before I would consent to this expedient, I was driven to the necessity of consuming every ounce of provision which had been kept as a reserve in the Garrison of West point, and I had strained impress by military force to that length, that I trembled for the consequence of the execution of every Warrant which I granted for the purpose—so much are the people irritated by the frequent calls which have been made upon them in that way. If it be possible to furnish the Quarter Master with but a little money to enable him to pay part for transportation, I most earnestly request it may be done, as I am confident the measures we have hitherto been pursuing, cannot be much longer made use of without imminent danger of bringing the people to an open resistance.”—Washington to the President of Congress, 1 May, 1781.
[1 ]Read in Congress, May 14th. Referred to Sullivan, Varnum and Montgomery. On the 15th referred to Bland, Carroll, and Witherspoon.
[1 ]The separation of Vermont from New York suggested to Germaine an advantage for the British, for he informed General Haldimand that he should give the inhabitants reason to expect the king would erect their country into a separate province (3 March, 1779). A year later Col. Beverly Robinson, trusting to the ill feeling engendered by the supposed neglect of Vermont, asked Ethan Allen to state “without reserve whatever proposals you would wish to make” to Sir Henry Clinton, intimating that he would be rewarded by a separate government under the king and constitution of England (30 March, 1780). Allen received this letter in July, showed it to the Governor of Vermont and a number of the leaders in the State, and, on their advice, returned no answer. In September a correspondence was opened with Haldimand for the exchange of prisoners, an application through Washington having failed, and the British commander not only acceded to negotiate an exchange, but proposed a truce (October 22), and appointed commissioners. Schuyler at once wrote to Washington: “Sending a flag to Vernon for the purpose of exchanging prisoners appears to me only a cover to some design of the enemy, and gives me much uneasiness, especially as rumors prevail that the person, whom your excellency was informed to have been in New York in July last negotiating with the enemy, has been in New York, but I cannot learn that any one can positively ascertain either of these facts” (October 31). It was also rumored that the person had been in Canada about six weeks before. Washington replied on the 6th of November.
[1 ]Read in Congress, April 21st.
[2 ]Generals Knox and Duportail had accompanied the Commander-in-chief to Weathersfield. The following is an extract from Washington’s Diary.
[1 ]The substance only of Count de Rochambeau’s propositions and queries is here stated. The replies and remarks of Washington are printed in full, as transcribed from the records.
[1 ]The number of militia requested from Massachusetts was two thousand two hundred, from Connecticut fifteen hundred, from Pennsylvania, sixteen hundred, from New Hampshire four hundred, and from New Jersey five hundred. As the defence of Newport, after the French army should leave it, was to be entrusted to the militia of Rhode Island, no militia were required from that State to join the army. Soon after Pennsylvania was called upon to furnish two thousand five hundred men for the southern army, and its quota under the above call was allotted to the other States.
[1 ]This letter was intercepted by the enemy, sent to the British ministry, and published in the London Gazette on the 14th of July. Others of a similar tenor were also intercepted, and Sir Henry Clinton seems to have considered them as written for that purpose, and designedly put in the way of being taken. It has been said that he believed they were meant to deceive, and that Washington’s plans were actually the reverse of those mentioned in the letters. British historians have adopted this idea, and commended it as an evidence of well-timed address on the part of the American general. Annual Register for 1781, p. 123.—Andrews,History of the Late War, vol. iv., p. 198. It is certain, however that no such deception was intended, and that the letters expressed the real designs of the Commander-in-chief. The first impressions of Sir Henry Clinton on the subject were confirmed by a confidential letter from the Marquis de Chastellux to the Chevalier de la Luzerne, intercepted nearly at the same time, in which the writer stated that a combined attack on New York had been determined upon, and took to himself much credit for bringing over Count de Rochambeau to General Washington’s opinion. The letter also contained free remarks on the deportment of the French commander, and the reserve in which he held himself as to consulting with his subordinate officers. A copy of this letter was carefully transmitted from New York to Count de Rochambeau, it being doubtless deemed well suited to breed strife in the French camp. It had not this effect, but it was received with displeasure by Count de Rochambeau. “I sent for the Marquis de Chastellux,” said he; “I showed him the letter; I then threw it into the fire, and left him a prey to his own reflections.”—Mémoires de Rochambeau, tom. i., p. 274.—Sparks.
[1 ]Wayne’s detachment marched from Yorktown, in Pennsylvania, on the 26th of May.
[1 ]Intelligence had been brought to Count de Rochambeau by his son and Count de Barras, that a strong armament had departed from Brest, or would immediately depart, under Count de Grasse, for the West Indies; and that, after he had passed the Azores, Count de Grasse would detach a convoy with somewhat more than six hundred recruits, escorted by the armed vessel Sagittaire, and destined to unite with the French army at Newport. Money for the army and navy was also to be brought by the Sagittaire. The news was likewise entrusted to Count de Rochambeau alone, that Count de Grasse had orders to sail with his fleet to the coast of the United States in the month of July or August, to relieve the squadron of M. de Barras; and in case M. de Rochambeau should march from Newport to unite with General Washington before the arrival of Count de Grasse’s fleet, then the squadron of Barras was to retire to the harbor of Boston for security, as it was supposed that, without the protection of the French army on shore, the vessels would be in danger of a naval attack from the enemy with a superior force.—Mémoires de Rochambeau, tom. i., p. 270.
[1 ]“I fear, from the purport of the letter you did me the honor to write from N: Port on the 9th, that my sentiments respecting the council of war held on board the Duke de Burgogne the 31st of May, have been misconceiv’d, and I shall be very unhappy if they receive an interpretation different from the true intent and meaning of them. If this is the case, it can only be attributed to my not understanding the business of the Duke de Lauzun perfectly. I will rely therefore on your goodness and candor to explain, and rectify the mistake, if any has happened. My wishes perfectly coincided with the determination of the Board of War to continue the Fleet at Rhode Island, provided it could remain there in safety, with the force required, and did not impede the march of the Army towards the North River. But when Duke Lauzun informed me, that my opinion of the propriety and safety of this measure was required by the Board, and that he came hither at the particular desire of the Counts Rochambeau and de Barras, to obtain it, I was reduced to the painful necessity of delivering a sentiment different from that of a most respectable Board, or of forfeiting all pretensions to candor by the concealment of it. Upon this ground it was I wrote to the Generals to the effect I did, and not because I was dissatisfied at the alteration of the plan agreed to at Weathersfield. My fears for the safety of the Fleet, which I am now perswaded, were carried too far, were productive of a belief that the Generals, when seperated, might feel uneasy at every misterious preparation of the enemy, and occasion a fresh call for militia—this had some weight in my determination to give Boston (where I was sure no danger could be encountered but that of a blockade) a preference to Newport, where under some circumstances, though not such as were likely to happen, something might be enterprized.
[1 ]Read in Congress, June 12th.
[1 ]See this letter in the Secret Journal of Congress, vol. i., p. 221.
[1 ]It was the strong desire of the people of Virginia, that Washington would take command of the army in that State. In the letter, to which the above was a reply, Mr. Jefferson had written:
[1 ]This was the convoy of French vessels, with recruits sent by Count de Grasse, under the escort of a fifty-gun ship, and mentioned in a note to the letter above, dated June 4th. Two thirds of the convoy and the ship had arrived at Boston; the other third had been dispersed in a gale near the coast.
[1 ]Words in italics were written in cypher.
[1 ]Count de Grasse wrote as follows to Count de Rochambeau:
[1 ]In place of the Continental force thus withdrawn, six hundred militia from the Counties of Berkshire and Hampshire were ordered there, with the New York militia. The command was given to Brigadier-General Stark, with instructions (dated June 25th) to oppose any incursion of the enemy and protect the frontier. “I rely upon it, that you will use your utmost exertions to draw forth the force of the country from the Green Mountains, and all the contiguous territory; and I doubt not your requisitions will be attended with success, as your personal influence must be unlimited amongst those people, at whose head you have formerly fought and conquered with so much reputation and glory.” Col. Willett was to remain in command on the Mohawk River, “as his popularity in that country will enable him to render essential services there.”
[1 ]The French army began its movement for the Hudson on June 10th. Rochambeau received four hundred recruits at Providence, and resumed his march on the 18th. On the 23d he was at Hartford, where he wrote to Washington that he expected to be at Newtown on the 28th. On his part Washington moved his army towards Peekskill.
[1 ]This letter Col. Cobb was to deliver to Rochambeau and impress upon that commander the importance of making the attack on the north end of New York Island, and on Delancey’s corps. On the 30th Brigadier General Waterbury was ordered to collect all the men he could, and marching light and with four days’ provision, form a junction with Colonel Sheldon, at Clapp’s in King Street, on the 2d of July, by sunset. He would there be joined also by the French legion, “under the command of the Duke de Lauzun, who is a brigadier in the service of his Most Christian Majesty, and an officer of distinction, long service, and merit. The Duke is to command all the troops that will be assembled at the point mentioned.”—Washington to Brigadier-General Waterbury, 30 June and 1 July, 1781. Colonel Dayton was ordered to collect all the troops of his brigade, except the company at Wyoming, and march as light as possible towards Kingsbridge (30 June). The three companies of New York State troops were directed to assemble at Bedford on July 1st, and put themselves under the command of Colonel Sheldon. On the 30th, Governor Clinton was informed of the intended movement:
[1 ]“Count Fersen will do me the favor to deliver this to your Excellency. The operations of this day are over, and I am sorry to say, that I have not had the happiness to succeed to my wishes, although I think very essential benefit will result to our future operations from the opportunity I have had, in a very full manner, to reconnoitre the position and works of the enemy on the north end of York Island. The particular events of the day I shall do myself the honor to communicate, when I have the pleasure to join your Excellency.
[1 ]Read in Congress, July 10th.
[1 ]By a resolve of Congress, Robert Morris, as Superintendnet of Finance, was vested with powers to dispose of the specific supplies, which had been required to be furnished by the several States, in such manner as he, with the advice of the Commander-in-chief, should judge best suited to promote the public interest, and answer the purposes of the present campaign.—Journals, June 4th. It was the opinion of Mr. Morris that all these supplies should be sold on the best terms that could be obtained, and that the army should in future be supplied by contracts.
[1 ]“Although our correspondence has been long interrupted, I hope that our friendship never will be, notwithstanding the arts of wicked men, who have endeavored to create discord and dissension among the friends of America. For myself, having little but my good wishes to send you, it was not worth while to take up your attention a moment with them. The contents of this letter will, I am sure, require no apology, because you always approve that zeal which is employed in the public service, and has for its object the public good. . . . It would be a thing for angels to weep over if the goodly fabric of human freedom, which you have so well labored to rear, should in one unlucky moment be levelled with the dust. There is nothing I think more certain, than that your personal call would bring into immediate exertion the force and the resources of this State and the neighboring ones, which, directed as they would be, will effectually disappoint and baffle the deep laid schemes of the enemy.”—Richard Henry Lee to Washington, Chantilly, June 12th.
[1 ]On the draft of this letter Washington has noted that in the fair copy some sentences were transposed, and alterations and corrections made, but the sentiments were the same.
[1 ]With a view of ascertaining the exact position of the enemy on the north end of New York Island, General Washington resolved to reconnoitre their posts from the western shore of the Hudson. For this purpose, on the 18th of July, he crossed the river at Dobbs Ferry, accompanied by Count de Rochambeau, General de Beville, and General Duportail. They were attended by an escort of one hundred and fifty men from the Jersey troops, then stationed on the west side of the river. The day was spent in reconnoitring from the high grounds between Dobbs Ferry and Fort Lee. He dined at one William Day’s, near Fort Lee. The subsequent manœuvres near Kingsbridge are briefly sketched in the following extract from his Diary.
[1 ]Chosen President of Congress on the 10th of July, as successor to Mr. Huntington, who had resigned. Samuel Johnson, of North Carolina, was first chosen, but he declined accepting the appointment.
[2 ]Extracts from intercepted letters.
[1 ]Thomas Nelson.
[1 ]Conditional instructions had been sent from Sir Henry Clinton to Lord Cornwallis, that the latter should despatch to New York a detachment from his army, as soon as he should have established himself in a fortified post near the Chesapeake. Their departure was delayed, however, till the French fleet arrived in the Chesapeake, and in reality no part of Lord Cornwallis’s army left Virginia for the purpose of reinforcing Sir Henry Clinton.—See the correspondence in Lord Cornwallis’s Answer to Sir Henry Clinton’s “Narrative,” &c., pp. 79-188.
[1 ]From the Orderly Book, July 31st.—“The light companies of the first and second regiments of New York (upon their arrival in camp), with the two companies of York levies under the command of Captains Sackett and Williams, will form a battalion under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Hamilton and Major Fish. After the formation of the battalion, Lieutenant-Colonel Hamilton will join the advanced corps under the orders of Colonel Scammell.”
[1 ]Alluding to the expected arrival of Count de Grasse with a French fleet.
[1 ]“I have no doubt but the reasons which induce you to decline the removal of the squadron under your command to the Chesapeake at this time are founded in propriety; but I am certain, that, could the measure have taken place, it would have been attended with most valuable consequences, more especially as, from reports and appearances, the enemy are about to bring part of their troops from Virginia to New York. Although the detachments from your fleet under the command of the Baron d’Angely did not succeed at Huntington, we are not the less obliged to your Excellency for directing the attempt to be made. If that post is maintained, I think an opportunity of striking it to advantage may still be found, and I doubt not but you will readily embrace it.”—Washington to Count de Barras, 21 July, 1781.
[1 ]Read in Congress August 6th.—Referred to Bland, Boudinot, and Varnum.
[1 ]An interesting note on this matter may be found in Franklin’s Works (Bigelow’s edition), vii., 303.
[1 ]Read in Congress August 17th. Referred to Boudinot, Varnum, and Sherman. “You are to insist upon the release of inhabitants taken out of arms, without any compensation. You may inform Mr. Loring, that I would not wish to be obliged to seize private persons to obtain the relief of those who are now in New York. I have it at this time in my power to secure every loyalist in the western part of Connecticut, in the county of Westchester, and in great part of Bergen; but I have not encouraged a practice, which I have reprobated in the enemy, and which nothing shall induce me to put in execution, but seeing no other mode of procuring the release of our citizens.”—Washington to Skinner, 8 August, 1781.
[1 ]“A correspondent of mine, a servant to Lord Cornwallis, writes on the 26th of July at Portsmouth, and says his master, Tarleton, and Simcoe are still in town, but expect to move. The greater part of the army is embarked. There are in Hampton Road one fifty-gun ship, two thirty-six gun frigates, and eighteen sloops loaded with horses. There remain but nine vessels in Portsmouth, which appear to be getting ready. My Lord’s baggage is yet in town. His Lordship is so shy of his papers, that my honest friend says he cannot get at them. There is a large quantity of negroes, very valuable indeed, but no vessel it seems to take them off. What garrison they have, I do not know. I shall take care, at least, to keep them within bounds. General Muhlenberg, with a corps of light infantry and horse, is moving towards Portsmouth; but, although I do not think they are going up the river or the bay, the less so as they have made a parade of taking pilots on board, I had rather act on the cautious side, and by keeping a supporting position leave no chance to his Lordship to out-manœuvre us. Should a French fleet now come into Hampton Road, the British army would, I think, be ours.
[2 ]Rochambeau wrote a letter to Barras on August 15th, to which Washington added the following postscript: “The sentiments contained in the foregoing letter perfectly accord with my opinion, and I am more inclined to adopt them as we have seen in the British Gazettes accounts of a squadron under the command of Admiral Digby said to be intended to reinforce the British fleets in these seas. Should this squadron actually arrive, form a junction with Admiral Rodney & Graves, and find the French naval force separated, it might eventually prove fatal to the fleets of his most Christian Majesty, commanded by the Count de Grasse and yourself. I cannot avoid repeating therefore in earnest terms the request of the Count de Rochambeau, that you would form the junction, and as soon as possible, with the Count de Grasse in Chesapeake Bay.”
[1 ]This letter was signed jointly by General Washington and Count de Rochambeau.
[1 ]To this request for money Mr. Morris made a very discouraging reply, stating that he had none, but would make every possible exertion. See his answer in the Diplomatic Correspondence, vol. xi., p. 431.
[1 ]“I have the pleasure to inform your Excellency, that my troops arrived at the [King’s] Ferry yesterday, and began to pass the river at ten o’clock in the morning, and by sunrise of this day they were all completely on this side of the river. I hope your army will be enabled to cross with the same facility when they arrive.”—Washington to Rochambeau, 21 August, 1781.
[1 ]Mr. Morris, as superintendent of finance, and Mr. Peters, as a member of the Board of War, had been appointed commissioners by Congress to proceed to head-quarters, and consult the Commander-in-chief respecting the arrangement and numbers of the army for the ensuing year.—Journals, July 31st. They had recently been in the camp for that purpose, and had addressed a letter to General Washington containing several queries on that subject. See the letter in the Diplomatic Correspondence, vol. xi., p. 426. The basis of their scheme was a reduction of the army.
[1 ]The pressure for money to pay the troops was in part relieved by a loan of twenty thousand hard dollars from Count de Rochambeau, which Mr. Morris engaged to replace by the 1st of October.—Diplomatic Correspondence, vol. xi., p. 463. Colonel Laurens arrived in Boston from his mission to France on the 25th of August, bringing with him in cash two millions and a half of livres, being part of the donation of six millions, which had been recently given to the United States by the King of France. This was a seasonable supply, and enabled the superintendent of finance to fulfil his engagement.
[1 ]On the 2d, the Count de Grasse informed Washington of his arrival in the Chesapeake. In reply Washington wrote on the 6th:
[1 ]“We are thus far on our way to you. The Count de Rochambeau has just arrived. General Chastellux will be here, and we propose, after resting tomorrow, to be at Fredericksburg on the night of the 12th. The 13th we shall reach New Castle; and the next day we expect to have the pleasure of seeing you at your encampment. Should there be any danger as we approach you, I should be obliged if you will send a party of horse towards New Kent Court-House to meet us.”—Washington to Lafayette, Mount Vernon, 10 September, 1781.
[1 ]On his passage from the West Indies to the Chesapeake, Count de Grasse captured a British armed vessel, bound from Charleston to New York, in which was Lord Rawdon, who was taken prisoner and brought into the Chesapeake.
[2 ]“Every day we now lose is comparatively an age. As soon as it is in our power with safety, we ought to take our position near the enemy. Hurry on then, my dear Sir, with your troops on the wings of speed. The want of our men and stores is now all that retards our immediate operations. Lord Cornwallis is improving every moment to the best advantage; and every day that is given him to make his preparations may cost us many lives to encounter them.
[1 ]On the 10th of August, Count de Barras arrived in the Chesapeake, with the squadron from Rhode Island, the French siege artillery, and the land forces under M. de Choisy. Ten transports from this squadron, two frigates lately captured from the enemy, and other prize vessels, were immediately despatched up the bay to receive on board the French troops, who could not find means of transportation from the Head of Elk and Baltimore, and had pursued their route by land. They embarked at Annapolis, and proceeded by water to James River.
[1 ]From the Diary, September 17th.—“In company with Count de Rochambeau, the Chevalier de Chastellux, General Knox, and General Duportail, I set out for an interview with the admiral, and arrived on board the Ville de Paris (off Cape Henry) the next day about noon; and, having settled most points with him to my satisfaction, except not obtaining an assurance of sending ships above York, I embarked on board of Queen Charlotte, the vessel I went down in; but, by reason of hard blowing and contrary winds, I did not reach Williamsburg again till the 22d.”
[1 ]This letter, sustained by the explanations and arguments of the Marquis de Lafayette, produced a change in the schemes of Count de Grasse; and he agreed to remain within the Capes, and blockade the bay during the siege. He laid the matter before a council of war. “The result has been,” said he in his reply, “that the plan I had suggested was the most brilliant and glorious, but it would not fulfil the views we had proposed. It is consequently decided, that a large part of the fleet shall anchor in York River, that four or five vessels shall be stationed so as to pass up and down in James River, and that you shall aid us with the means to erect a battery on Point Comfort, where we can place cannon and mortars. We shall immediately proceed to execute this arrangement, and I hasten to give you notice, that we may act in concert for the advancement of our operations.”
[2 ]“The resolutions that you have taken in our circumstances prove, that a great mind knows how to make personal sacrifices to secure an important general good. Fully sensible of those, which you have made on the present occasion, I flatter myself that the result of the operations, conducted under your auspices, will compensate them by its utility to the common cause. Your Excellency may depend on every assistance, that the allied armies can give, relatively to the battery which you propose at Point Comfort, and that our utmost exertions will be used in hastening the investment of the enemy.”—Washington to Count de Grasse, 27 September, 1781.
[1 ]The attempt to pass up York River was declined by Count de Grasse, not because he thought the works at York and Gloucester would present serious obstacles, but because he believed his large vessels would not be secure in that station. The enemy had a great number of boats and small craft, and with these they could easily bring fire-ships in the night, from which his vessels would be exposed to imminent danger, confined in the narrow channel of a river; especially as he had not in his whole fleet a sufficient number of row-boats and light craft for defence in such a situation, even if they could all be transported up the river in safety. This objection he deemed insuperable, and the project was laid aside. It was revived again, however, a few days afterwards. The passage and the river above York were reconnoitred by a French officer, and, upon his representation, Gount de Grasse agreed to send up some of his vessels, provided General Washington would furnish such a number of row-boats as would protect them from the fire-ships. This was about to be executed when Lord Cornwallis proposed terms of surrender.
[2 ]“Col. Morris will inform General Greene in the sincerest manner that there are but two motives which can possibly induce Genl. W— to take the command to the southward: one, the order of C— to repair thither; the other, the French army going there. In the last case Count R— would command if Genl. W— did not go in person. General Washington wishes, not only from his personal regard to Genl. Greene, but from principles of generosity and justice, to see him crowned with those laurels which from his unparalleled exertions he so richly deserves.”—Memorandum to Col. Lewis Morris, to be destroyed as soon as he has committed them to memory. 6 October, 1781.
[3 ]Agent in the United States from the Spanish government.
[4 ]Commander of the Spanish forces in Louisiana and Florida.
[1 ]“Since mine to your Excellency of the 1st instant, we have been employed in repairing the enemy’s works upon Pigeon Hill, and in constructing a new intermediate redoubt. These will serve to give security to our troops in making their approaches. We have been assiduously employed in making fascines and gabions, and in transporting our heavy cannon, mortars, and stores from Trebell’s Landing, on James River. In the last we made slow progress, until the arrival of the wagons and teams from the northward; but, it being the opinion of the engineers, that we now have a sufficient stock to commence operations, we shall this night open trenches.”—Washington to the President of Congress, 6 October, 1781.
[1 ]“In doing which we experienced more fire from the enemy than had before been given us, principally from their small shells, which gave us some annoyance, and little loss of life.”—Washington to Major-General Health, 16 October, 1781.
[1 ]According to this return, as copied from Washington’s Diary, the Americans had lost twenty killed, and fifty-six wounded; the French, fifty-two killed, and one hundred and thirty-four wounded.
[2 ]Read in Congress, October 25th. Referred to Randolph, Boudinot, Varnum, and Carroll.
[3 ]“I do myself the honor to transmit the copy of a letter, which I have just received from Lord Cornwallis. I have informed him in answer thereto, that I wish him, previous to the meeting of the commissioners, to send his proposals in writing to the American lines, for which purpose a cessation of hostilities for two hours will be allowed.
[1 ]“I have the honor, with many congratulations, to inform you that one o’clock this afternoon is appointed for the delivery of two of the enemy’s redoubts on the Gloucester side; one to a detachment of French, the other to a detachment of American troops. The garrison is to march out at three o’clock (with shouldered arms, drums beating a British or German march, the cavalry with their swords drawn, and the colors of the whole cased,) to a place which you will be so good as to appoint, in front of the posts, where they will ground their arms, and afterwards return to their encampment. You will be so good as to communicate this to General Weedon, and to make the necessary arrangements, and desire him to take every precaution to prevent the loss or embezzlement of the arms.”—Washington to Brigadier General Choisy, 19 October, 1781.
[1 ]This letter was referred on the 24th to a committee of Congress (Randolph, Boudinot, Varnum, and Carroll), who reported a series of resolves, which were adopted. The thanks of Congress were voted to General Washington, Count de Rochambeau, and Count de Grasse respectively, and also to all the officers and soldiers. Two stands of colors, taken at Yorktown, were presented to General Washington; two pieces of field-ordnance to Count Rochambeau; and a similar tribute to Count de Grasse. A horse, properly caparisoned, and an elegant sword, were given to Colonel Tilghman, who had been the bearer of the despatches containing the news of the capitulation. It was also resolved that Congress would cause to be erected at Yorktown a marble column, adorned with emblems of the alliance between the United States and France, and inscribed with a succinct narrative of the events of the siege and capitulation.—Journals, October 29th.
[1 ]The day after the above letter was written, General Washington himself went on board the admiral’s ship, both to pay his respects and offer his thanks for the services that had been rendered by the fleet, and to endeavor to impress upon the Count de Grasse the importance of the plan he had suggested. He returned the same evening; but, having promised to Lafayette the command of the detachment destined against Wilmington, in case Count de Grasse could be persuaded to undertake the convoy and debarkation of the troops, he left that officer on board the Ville de Paris for the purpose of further consultation with the admiral. Two days afterwards Lafayette also came back, and made the following report:
[1 ]Count de Grasse to Lafayette.—“The more I reflect on the plan which you mentioned to me, the more I see the impossibility of undertaking to transport troops, baggage, artillery, and ammunition. My ulterior operations require my return to an appointed place at a fixed day. That day approaches, and it would be impossible for me to break my engagement voluntarily. The passage from hence to Cape Fear may possibly be accomplished in two days, but it may also require more than fifteen. The debarkation of troops and stores may be attended with delays, and expose me to censure. Besides, it might happen, that, from an obstinate succession of southerly winds, I should be obliged to take the resolution of repairing to my rendezvous. Then I should be under the necessity of carrying with me, during the whole campaign, a detachment of troops useful to the Continent, of which I should be very sorry to deprive it. Thus, all that I can do, is to promise to escort as well as I can the vessels, that may have troops on board; but it will be impossible for me to remain on the coast beyond the 8th of next month; and even this delay must be repaired on my part by the greatest activity. If you are deficient in the means of embarking or debarking, let us think no more of the measure. But do not attribute my refusal to any thing, but the impossibility of executing a matter that was agreeable to you.”—MS. Letter, October 26th.
[1 ]Read in Congress, November 3d. Referred to Randolph, Boudinot, Varnum, and Carroll.
[1 ]In his reply Count de Grasse said that he should communicate General Washington’s proposal to the French court, and doubted not that every thing in their power would be done to promote his views, and establish American liberty. St. Simon embarked his troops, and the fleet sailed out of the Chesapeake on the 4th of November for the West Indies. General Washington presented to Count de Grasse two horses, which were sent off to the fleet.
[1 ]The troops were transported by water to the Head of Elk, and they marched thence by land. The New Jersey troops were stationed for the winter near Morristown, and the two New York regiments, under General James Clinton, at Pompton. All the others proceeded to the North River, where the light companies joined their respective regiments. Hazen’s regiment was ordered to Lancaster, in Pennsylvania.
[1 ]Read in Congress, November 9th. Referred to Varnum, Montgomery, and Lovell.
[1 ]John Parke Custis.
[1 ]“I shall remain but a few days here [Mount Vernon], and shall proceed to Philadelphia, when I shall attempt to stimulate Congress to the best improvement of our late success, by taking the most vigorous and effectual measures to be ready for an early and decisive campaign the next year. My greatest fear is, that Congress, viewing this stroke in too important a point of light, may think our work too nearly closed, and will fall into a state of languor and relaxation. To prevent this error, I shall employ every means in my power, and if unhappily we sink into that fatal mistake, no part of the blame shall be mine. Whatever may be the winter politics of European Courts, it is clearly my opinion, that our grand object is to be prepared in every point for war—not that we wish its continuance, but that we may be in the best situation to meet every event.”—Washington to Major-General Greene, 16 November, 1781.
[1 ]President McKean, being Chief-Justice of the State of Pennsylvania, was obliged to retire from Congress for a time to attend to the duties of that office. Mr. John Hanson, of Maryland, was chosen to succeed him as President of Congress on the 5th of November.
[2 ]Harrison Manley.
[1 ]Although the offer appears to have been accepted, and three gentlemen appointed as arbitrators, it was not until January, 1787, that I find a transfer to Washington by William Triplet, executor of Harrison Manley, of 142 acres, purchased at £3 the acre. In January, 1786, Dulany became a tenant of Washington, but Washington paid to Mrs. Penl. French, in the year 1787, a rent of £136 for her plantation and negroes, and the same rental was paid in 1788, 1789, and 1790.
[1 ]General Washington arrived in Philadelphia on the 27th of November, and the next day he attended Congress, being introduced into the hall by two members. He was addressed by the president as follows.
[1 ]The British had recently retired from Wilmington.
[2 ]As General Smallwood had been promoted to the rank of major-general, Colonel Otho H. Williams was recommended by General Greene to supply his place as brigadier in the Maryland line.
[1 ]On these topics General Greene had written: “Before an exchange is gone fully into I wish something decisive may be done respecting Colonel Hayne. As retaliation necessarily involves the whole Continent, I wish your Excellency’s order and the order of Congress thereon. The latter have signified their approbation of the measures I took. But, as retaliation did not take place immediately, nor did I think myself at liberty to act on a matter of such magnitude but from the most pressing necessity, and as the enemy did not repeat the offence, I have been at a loss how to act with respect to the original one, not having any officer of equal rank with Colonel Hayne in my possession. I am ready to execute whatever may be thought advisable. It would be happy for America, if something could be done to put a stop to the practice of burning, both in the northern States and here also; and, to prevent it here, I wrote to the enemy a letter on the subject, a copy of which I enclose; and if they do not desist, I will put the war on the footing I mention.”—MS. Letter, November 21st.
[1 ]This board was established to superintend the affairs of the Refugees, or Loyalists. William Franklin, formerly governor of New Jersey, was its president.
[1 ]Read in Congress, December 28th. Referred to Clymer, Carroll, and Law.