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Letter from General Washington to the President of Congress



[Read 20th.]

Trenton Falls, December the 12th, 1776.

SIR: I last night received the favour of Mr˙ Thomson' s letter, enclosing the proceedings of Congress of the 11th instant. As the publication of their resolve, in my opinion, will not lead to any good end, but, on the contrary, may be attended with some bad consequences, I shall take the liberty to decline inserting it in this day' s orders. I am persuaded if the subject is taken up and reconsidered, that Congress will concur with me in sentiment. I doubt not but there are some who have propagated the report; but what if they have? Their remaining in, or leaving Philadelphia, must be governed by circumstances and events. If their departure should become necessary, it will be right; on the other hand, if there should not be a necessity for it, they will remain; and their continuance will show the report to be the production of calumny and falsehood. In a word, sir, I conceive it a matter that may be as well disregarded, and that the removal or staying of Congress depending entirely upon events, should not have been the subject of a resolve.

The intelligence we obtain respecting the movements and situation of the enemy is far from being so certain and satisfactory


as I could wish, though every probable means in my power, and that I can devise, are adopted for that purpose. The latest I have received was from Lord Stirling last night. He says that two Grenadiers of the Inniskilleng Regiment, who were taken and brought in by some countrymen, inform that Generals Howe, Cornwallis, Vaughan, &c˙, with about six thousand of the Flying Army, were at Penny-Town, waiting for pontoons to come up, with which they mean to pass the river near the Blue mounts, or at Coryel' s Ferry; they believe the latter. That the two battalions of Guards were at Brunswick, and the Hessian Grenadiers, Chasseurs, and a regiment or two of British troops, are at Trenton. Captain Miller, of Colonel Hand' s regiment, also informs me that a body of the enemy were marching to Burlington on yesterday morning. He had been sent over with a strong scouting party, and at daybreak fell in with their advanced guards, consisting of about four hundred Hessian troops, who fired upon him before they were discovered, but without any loss, and obliged him to retreat with his party and to take boat. The number of the whole he could not ascertain, but they appeared to be considerable. Captain Miller' s account is partly confirmed by Commodore Seymour, who reports that four or five hundred of the enemy had entered the town. Upon the whole, there can be no doubt but that Philadelphia is their object, and that they will pass the Delaware as soon as possible. Happy should I be if I could see the means of preventing them. At present I confess I do not. All military writers agree, that it is a work of great difficulty, nay, impracticable, where there is any extent of coast to guard. This is the case with us; and we have to do it with a force small and inconsiderable, and much inferiour to that of the enemy. Perhaps Congress have some hope and prospect of reinforcements. I have no intelligence of the sort, and wish to be informed on the subject. Our little handfull is daily decreasing by sickness and other causes; and without aid, without considerable succours and exertions on the part of the people, what can we reasonably look for or expect, but an event that will be severely felt by the common cause, and that will wound the heart of every virtuous American — the loss of Philadelphia? The subject is disagreeable, but yet it is true. I will leave it, wishing that our situation may become such as to do away the apprehensions which at this time seem to fill the minds of too many, and with too much justice.

By a letter from General Heath, dated at Peekskill, the 8th, I am advised that Lieutenant-Colonel Vose was then there with Greaton' s, Bond' s, and Porter' s regiments, amounting in the whole to between five and six hundred men, who were coming this way. He adds, that Generals Gates and Arnold would be at Goshen that night, with Stark' s, Poor' s, and Read' s regiments; but for what purpose he does not mention.

The enclosed extract of a letter, which I received last night, contains intelligence of an agreeable nature. I wish to hear its confirmation by the arrival of the several prizes. That with clothing and arms will be an invaluable acquisition.

I shall be glad to be advised of the mode I am to observe in paying the officers: Whether they are to be allowed to draw the pay lately established, and from what time, and how long they are to be paid under the old establishment? A pay-roll which was presented yesterday being made up for the new, has given rise to these propositions. Upon my objecting to it, I was told that Congress or the Board of War had established the precedent, by paying the Sixth Reoiment of Virginia troops, commanded by Colonel Buckner agreeable to the latter, as they came through Philadelphia.

I have the honour to be, with much esteem, sir, your most obedient servant,