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General Lee to President of Congress



[February 26, 1776, referred to Mr˙ McKean, Mr˙ John Adams, Mr˙ L˙ Morris.]

New York, February 22, 1776.

SIR: Last night I had the honour of receiving yours, with the resolves and commands of the Congress, which I shall obey with the greatest zeal and alacrity, and all possible expedition. The confidence reposed in me is extremely flattering, and I shall labour to deserve their good opinion.

As I am yet very weak and lender, after my illness, I shall take the liberty to remain here a few days, at least until I am able to walk and ride with a tolerable degree of ease, which, at present, I am incapable of doing; in fact, venturing upon a journey in the state I am in might risk a relapse, which might totally incapacitate me from being of any service in that part of the world or elsewhere.

The cannon ordered by the Congress to Canada, shall be fitted out and despatched without loss of time; the Provincial Congress are now preparing the means. Mortars there are none, which is very unfortunate, as in the attack of towns they are absolutely necessary.

I was much disappointed, sir, in not being joined by a battalion from Philadelphia, as I was taught to expect. I did not apply for them merely with a view of opposing Mr˙ Clinton with the troops he should bring with him. I had sufficient, and more than sufficient force to cope with him, but it was agreed, in the conference held with the three gentlemen who were here, as a Committee from the Congress, that it would be necessary to retrench a camp in Long Island, capacious enough to contain at least three thousand men; and although it was thought impracticable to fortify the sea side of the town against shipping, it was allowed and determined to be expedient to throw up divers works in the city and its environs, in order to prevent the enemy' s getting possession of it. To accomplish these works, sir, not a small number of hands are requisite. Our present numbers are so far from being adequate to the business, that they are scarcely sufficient to mark out the works, and, at the same time, do the necessary garrison duty. As to the Minute-Men, no account ought to be made of them. Had I been as much acquainted with them when they were summoned as I am at present, I should have exerted myself to prevent their coming. The expense of these gentry is most intolerable. They have, upon an average, about two men to one officer; but the expense of their subsistence is not all; the loss of powder to the publick is dreadful. They leave their homes without a grain; they expect, and must be supplied out of the publick magazines; when they return they carry it with them. Upon the whole, sir, I cannot help expressing my wishes, that the Congress will find means of establishing one great Continental regular army, adequate to all the purposes of defence. Every consideration, that of economy as well as security, dictate the measure.

At present, we have here Lord Stirling' s, Waterbury' s, and Ward' s Battalions. Waterbury' s and Ward' s are only inlisted to the 12th of March. In eighteen days, therefore, the whole force will consist of Lord Stirling' s Regiment, not quite five hundred men fit for duty. I own I


tremble for this important place; I cannot help fearing that the enemy will have possession of it. I submit it to the wisdom of the Congress whether a force should not be immediately provided to prevent so fatal an event. If they depend on the four regiments ordered to be raised in this Province, they will, I am afraid, be cruelly disappointed: for, from all those I have conversed with on the subject, many months will be required for their completion, if they are ever completed. I hope you will excuse my being so diffuse with respect to New York, I thought it my duty to be particular on so important a subject.

I have a favour to ask of the Congress. Doctor Fague, who is settled at Fairfield, in Connecticut, is a French gentleman of ability, probity, and skill in his profession. He knows Canada very well; is known and esteemed there. He speaks French and English with great ease and fluency. He is extremely desirous of accompanying me. If, sir, there is a possibility of placing him in the Hospital, but in a station and rank proportioned to his pretensions, I apprehend he might not only be of great use to me, but to the publick. If the Hospital is already disposed of, I should think it worth while to appoint him to some other office.

Before I conclude, sir, I ought to apprize you that a very considerable number of the guns we took from the Battery are absolutely unfit for service. The enclosed is a return of those that are good, and those that may be used on occasion.

I am, sir, with the greatest respect, your most obedient servant,

To the Honourable John Hancock, Esq˙, President of the Continental Congress.