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General Lee to General Heath



Camp Philipsburg, November ye 26th, 1776.

SIR: I perceive that you have formed an opinion to yourself, that should General Washington remove to the Straits of Magellan, the instructions he left with you upon a particular occasion have to all intents and purposes invested you with a command separate from, and independent of, any other superiours — that General Heath and General Lee are only two Majors-General, who perhaps ought to hold a friendly intercourse with each other, and when their humour or fancied interest prompts, may afford mutual assistance, but that General Heath is by no means to consider himself obliged to obey any orders of the second in command. This idea of yours, sir, may not only be prejudicial to yourself, but to the publick. I could wish, sir, before things go any further, you would correct the notion. I enjoined you to send two thousand men over the river, and informed you that I would replace ' em with an equal number. This was the only mode in my power of complying with the intentions of the General; but it seems your danger was so imminent and your instructions so positive, that instead of taking a step which both duty and common sense dictated, you are so kind as to advise me to send the troops from hence, the two days' march from hence to Peekskill, and the want of wagons, with the badness of the roads, making no sort of difference; but I must inform you, sir, that we could not have been (such are our circumstances) in less than five days at Peekskill; and that five days may turn the fate of an empire. If any misfortune should happen from this refusal, you must answer for it. If any misfortune had happened to your present post by the detachment of these two thousand men from your corps, the blame would have fallen upon me; but enough on this subject. I shall therefore conclude that the Commander-in-Chief is now separated from us; that I of course command on this side the water; that for the future I will and must be obeyed.

I am, sir, your most obedient servant,


To Major-General Heath.