Primary tabs

Letter from Colonel Reed to the Committee of Congress



Camp, near Harlem, October 1, 1776.

GENTLEMEN: Your departure from this place earlier than I expected, obliges me to communicate to you this way what I intended to have done in person. I observe that the Congress, in the establishment of a new and permanent army, have very properly reserved the appointment of General officers to themselves. As the department I now have the honour to hold is in that class, and of very great importance to the publick safety and welfare, I think it my indispensable duty to acquaint you, as early as possible, that I find my apprehensions of not being able, to fill it to advantage to the publick and satisfaction to myself, have been too well realized to allow me to continue in it. If there is any department in the army which should be filled by one who has made arms his profession, it is this; and I doubt whether any abilities or reading can supply the deficiency of practice. In a well-regulated army, it is a post of great concern and difficulty, and always filled by some officer of the greatest experience: how much more necessary must it be in ours, where the greatest part are uninformed of their duty, and the frequent changes keep us constantly ignorant. To set out with the new troops; to


lead them on step by step in the various duties of the camp, the parade of the field; to establish one system of exercise through the whole, so that the whole machine, though large, may move with ease, will require an officer to whom the minute duties are familiar, and whose knowledge and experience will claim respect in his discharge of the greater ones. I feel myself often at a loss in the former, and inexpressibly so in the latter: to continue, therefore, in an office which may be filled by a man of capacity, when I am sensible of my deficiencies, would, in my opinion be unbecoming a man of character and honour. In the new arrangement, therefore, to be made, you will be pleased to consider this department as one to be provided for, and the sooner, I apprehend, the better.

The General' s friendship and partiality would doubtless induce him to retain me with him, and supply my defects from his own knowledge and application to business, both which are very great. I have not, therefore, as yet, acquainted him with my intentions; but I beg you would do me the justice to believe that neither a regard to private interest, personal danger, or dissatisfaction with the service, but a single eye to the publick service and welfare, have actuated me upon this occasion. I shall not hesitate to apply the little knowledge and experience I have acquired to the publick service in a channel through which I can serve it with satisfaction and honour, but I cannot continue in an important department, where the publick and my own character will eventually suffer.

I am, with great respect and regard, gentlemen, your most obedient and very humble servant,

JOS˙ REED, Adjutant-General