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Letter from General George Clinton to John McKesson



Camp near White-Plains, October 31, 1776.

DEAR SIR: We are exactly in the same situation in which we were when I wrote you yesterday. The enemy seem still to be endeavouring to outflank us, especially our right wing. Our advanced guards, I hear, are a little south of Young' s tavern, on the road leading to White-Plains. Where the main body is I can' t say, as I am so closely confined to my post on the left of the whole as not to have been a quarter mile west from this for four days past. Near three thousand of the enemy yesterday and the evening before filed off to the left, and were seen advancing towards King' s street and the Purchase road, from which it appears they intend to flank our left as well as right wing. We had reason to apprehend an attack last night or by daybreak this morning, (as was said, what they were I know not.) Our lines were manned all night in consequence of this; and a most horrid night it was to lay in cold trenches. Uncovered as we are, daily on fatigue, making redoubts, Heches, abattis, and lines, and retreating from them and the little temporary huts made for our comfort before they are well finished, I fear will ultimately destroy our army without fighting. This I am sure of, that I am likely to lose more in my brigade by sickness occasioned by extra fatigue and want of covering than in the course of an active campaign is ordinarily lost in the most severe actions. However, I would not be understood to condemn measures. They may be right for aught I know. I do not understand much of the refined art of war: it is said to consist of strategem and deception. This, nevertheless, is too obvious: the enemy are daily increasing their army by new recruits in those parts of the country which they have already acquired, whilst ours are daily decreasing by sickness, deaths, and desertions; add to this, one month more disbands a very considerable part of our army. How a new one will be recruited, God only knows, This I know, many are disgusted with the service. Those will not reenter; and what is worse, will prevent others, by representing, on their return home, the hardships they have endured. So much for military politicks. I write this in confidence. If what I have said be true, and the evils which I fear prevented in any degree by the honourable body in which you sit, it is devoutly to be wished.

When I wrote you a few days ago, I mentioned the situation in which Fort Washington was, and that three of the enemy' s shipping had come up, with design to obstruct Beaurdett' s Ferry, and, after a heavy cannonade, were drove back. This was the truth, but not the whole truth. I happened to be out of the way of news that day. Those ships came up, it seems, to enfilade our lines below that fort, whilst Lord Percy attacked them, which he did three different times, but was as often repulsed by the garrison of


Fort Washington, who manned and defended them like heroes. The particulars I have not yet been happy enough to hear more fully.

Last night Captain Townsend, with a detachment of my brigade, consisting of about thirty, brought in prisoner a certain Mr˙ Wetworth, late of Boston, and now a Commissary in the regular service, which they took prisoner near Rye.

I have only time to add that I am with usual health, though in no better lodging than a soldier' s tent, with our old friend General Scott.

Your most affectionate, humble servant, GEO˙ CLINTON.

To John McKesson, Esq.

Since writing the above, I am favoured with yours of the 29th. I find you have not received my two last as yet, the first of which I must beg you will answer, and attend to the prisoner brought in by my boys since writing the above.