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Letter from General Washington to the President of Congress



[Read July 20, and referred to the Board of War.]

New York, July 19, 1776.

SIR: I have been duly honoured with your favours of the 16th and 17th, with the several resolves they contained, to the execution of which, so far as shall be in my power, I will pay proper attention.

In my letter of the 17th instant, I transmitted you a copy of one from General Schuyler, and of its several enclosures. I confess the determination of the council of General Officers on the 7th, to retreat from Crown Point, surprised me much; and the more I consider it the more striking does the impropriety


appear. The reasons assigned against it by the Field Officers in their remonstrance, coincide greatly with my own ideas and those of the other General Officers I have had an opportunity of consulting with, and seem to be of considerable weight — I may add, conclusive.

I am not so fully acquainted with the geography of that country and the situation of the posts as to pronounce a peremptory judgment upon the matter; but if any of my ideas are right, the possession of Crown Point is essential to give us every superiority and mastery upon the Lake. That the enemy will possess it as soon as abandoned by us there can be no doubt; and if they do, whatever galleys or force we keep on the Lake will be unquestionably in their rear. How they are to be supported there, or what succour can be drawn from them then, is beyond my comprehension. Perhaps it is only meant that they shall be employed on the communication between that and Ticonderoga. If this is the case, I fear the views of Congress will not be answered, nor the salutary effects derived from them that were intended. I have mentioned my surprise to General Schuyler, and would, by the advice of the Generals here, have directed that the posts should be maintained, had it not been for two causes: an apprehension that the works have been destroyed, and that if the Army should be ordered from Ticonderoga to the post opposite to it (where I presume they are) to repossess it, they would have neither one place or another secure and in a defensible state. The other, lest it might increase the jealousy and diversity of opinions which seem already too prevalent in that Army, and establish a precedent for the inferior officers to set up their judgment whenever they would in opposition to those of their superiors, a matter of great delicacy, and that might lead to fatal consequences, if countenanced; though in the present instance I could wish their reasoning had prevailed. If the Army has not moved, what I have said to General Schuyler may, perhaps, bring on a reconsideration of the matter, and it may not be too late to take measures for maintaining that post; but of this I have no hope.

In consequence of the resolve of Congress for three of the Eastern regiments to reinforce the Northern Army, I wrote General Ward, and, by advice of my General Officers, directed them to march to Norwich, and there to embark for Albany, conceiving that two valuable purposes might result therefrom: first, that they would sooner join the Army by pursuing this route, and be saved from the distress and fatigue that must attend every long march through the country at this hot and uncomfortable season; and, secondly, that they might give succour here in case the enemy should make an attack about the time of their passing. But the enemy having now, with their ships-of-war and tenders, cut off the water communication from hence to Albany, I have written this day, and directed them to proceed by land across the country. If Congress disapprove the route, or wish to give any orders about them, you will please to certify me thereof, that I may take measures accordingly.

Enclosed I have the honour to transmit you copies of a letter and sundry resolutions, which I received yesterday from the Convention of this State. By them you will perceive they have been acting upon matters of great importance, and are exerting themselves in the most vigorous manner to defeat the wicked designs of the enemy, and such disaffected persons as may incline to assist and facilitate their views. In compliance with their request, and on account of the scarcity of money for carrying their salutary views into execution, I have agreed to lend them, out of the small stock now in hand, (not more than sixty thousand dollars,) twenty thousand dollars, in part of what they want, which they promise speedily to replace. Had there been money sufficient for paying the whole of our troops, and not more, I could not have done it; but as it was otherwise, and by no means proper to pay a part and not the whole, I could not foresee any inconveniences that would attend the loan; on the contrary, that might contribute in some degree to forward their schemes. I hope my conduct in this instance will not be disapproved.

I enclosed to Governour Trumbull a copy of their letter, and of their several resolves, today, by Colonel Broome and Mr˙ Duer, two members of the Convention, who are going to wait on him; but I did not think myself at liberty to urge or request his interest in forming the camp of six thousand men,


as the levies, directed by Congress on the 3d of June to be furnished for the defence of this place by that Government, are but a little more than one-third come in; at the same time, the proposition I think a good one, if it could be carried into execution. In case the enemy should attempt to effect a landing above King' s Bridge, and to cut off the communication between this city and the country, an army to bang on their rear would distress them exceedingly.

I have the honour to be, with sentiments of great esteem, sir, your most obedient servant,

P˙ S˙ The enclosed paper should have been sent before, but was omitted through hurry.

P˙ S˙ After I had enclosed my letter I received one from General Ward, a copy of which is herewith transmitted. I have written to him to forward the two regiments now at Boston by the most direct road to Ticonderoga, as soon as they are well, with the utmost expedition. I consider their having had the small pox as a fortunate circumstance. When the three arrive which had marched for Norwich, I shall immediately send one of them on, if Congress shall judge it expedient, of which you will please to inform me.