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Letter from General Washington to General Sullivan



New-York, June 16, 1776.

DEAR SIR: I was favoured with yours of the 5th and 6th instant, by express, yesterday evening, from GeneralSchuyler, and am exceedingly happy on account of the agreeable and interesting intelligence it contains. Before it came to hand I almost dreaded to hear fromCanada, as my advices seemed to promise nothing favourable, but rather our further misfortunes. But I am now hopeful our affairs, from the confused, distracted, and almost forlorn state in which you found them, will emerge, and assume an aspect of order and success. I am convinced many of our misfortunes are to be attributed to a want of discipline, and a proper regard to the conduct of the soldiery. Hence it was, and from our feeble efforts to protect theCanadians, that they had almost joined and taken part against us. As you are fully apprized of this, and conceive them well disposed towards us, with confidence I trust you will take every step in your power to conciliate and secure their friendship. If this can be effected — and of which you seem to have no doubt — I see no objection to our indulging a hope that this country (of such importance in the present controversy) may yet be added


to, and complete our Union. I confess this interesting work is now more difficult than it would have been heretofore, had matters been properly conducted; but yet I flatter myself it may be accomplished by a wise, prudent, and animated behaviour in the officers and men engaged in it, especially if assisted by the friendly disposition of the inhabitants. I think every mark of friendship and favour should be shown them, to encourage their zeal and attachment to our cause, and from which, if they once heartily embark, we shall derive innumerable benefits.

Your conduct in pushing and securing posts low down the country is certainly judicious, and of the utmost advantage. The further down we can take and maintain pests, the greater will our possession of the country be, observing, at the same time, the necessity of having a safe retreat left, if you should be obliged to abandon them by a superior force. I am hopeful, and shall anxiously wait to hear of GeneralThompson' s making a successful attack upon the party intrenching at theThree Rivers. Their defeat will be of the most essential service. It will chagrin them, disconcert their schemes on the one hand, and animate our men, and give life to ourCanadian friends on the other, and efface from their minds the unfavourable impressions our late conduct has made. It will be of material consequence, in your advances down the country, to secure the several important posts as you go, at which you may, in case you should be obliged to decline the main object you have in view, make a vigorous and successful stand in your retreat. I concur with you in opinion in thinking it not of material moment to keep a very large number of men atLa Chine, or the upper posts. There should be no more than will be necessary to repel such attacks and attempts as may be made by the savages and the regular troops above you — allowing for such a number of disaffectedCanadians as may join them. But then there should be a sufficient number for that purpose, as our further misfortunes there might be of the most injurious consequence. If they can be maintained, the disaffection above will dwindle away, and the insurrection promise nothing disastrous. It is impossible for me at this distance, and not acquainted with the situation of affairs as well as you who are on the spot, to give any particular directions for your conduct and operations. I therefore have only to request that you, with your officers, will, in every instance, pursue such measures as the exigency of our affairs may seem to require, and as to you shall appear most likely to advance and promote the interest and happiness of your country.

The return which you mention to have enclosed was not in your letter; you probably, through hurry, forgot to pun it in, or GeneralSchuyler may have omitted it when in his hands. I wrote you the 13th instant on this subject, and must again enjoin a particular attention to this part of your duty, it being of the utmost importance to be frequently certified of our whole strength and stores. In compliance with your request I shall transmit a copy of your letter to Congress by to-morrow' s post; it will give them sensible pleasure, and such as they had no good reason to expect, at least so soon.

I have enclosed you an extract of a letter from GeneralWard. From the capture mentioned in it, there is reason to expect the other transports that sailed with her are not far off the coast.

In regard to your giving commissions, it is a measure that I can neither approve nor disapprove; having no authority to act in this instance myself. The propriety of it must depend upon the powers and practice of your predecessors in command. If they had none, it will be judged of, most probably, by the good or bad consequences it may produce. Congress, from your letter, will see you have exercised such a power, and when they write you, will either confirm or refuse it, in all probability.

Lest you should conceive that I do not thinkLa Chine or theCedars posts of importance, and whose defence are not very material, I must here add that I esteem them of much consequence; but only mean that more men need not be employed than what will be equal to any probable attack that may be made against them.

I would observe, before I have done, that it is my most earnest request that harmony, a good understanding, and free communication of sentiments, may prevail and be preserved between the Generals and Field Officers — particularly


the former. Nothing can produce greater benefits than this, nor tend more to promote your military operations; whereas history and observation do sufficiently evince (they abound with numberless examples) the fatal consequences which have ever resulted from distrusts, jealousy, and disagreements among officers of these ranks. Wishing, therefore, your counsels and efforts to be founded in a happy union, and to meet the smiles of a kind Providence, I am, &c˙,


To Brigadier-GeneralSullivan.

P˙ S. Knowing your great zeal for the cause of your country and desire to render her every possible service, I must caution you not to put too much to the hazard in your exertions to establish her rights, and to receive, with a proper degree of caution, the professions theCanadians may make; they have the character of an ingenuous, artful people, and very capable of finesse and cunning. Therefore, my advice is that you put not too much in their power, but seem to trust them, rather than do it too far. I would also have you to keep all your posts, as you go, well secured, to guard against any treacherous conduct.

G˙ W.