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General Washington to the President of Congress



[Read 23d.]

Hackensack, November 19th, 1776.

SIR: I have not been yet able to obtain a particular account of the unhappy affair of the Kith, nor of the terms on which the garrison surrendered. The intelligence that has come to hand is not so full and accurate as I could wish. One of the artillery, and whose information is the most direct, who escaped on Sunday night, says the enemy' s loss was very considerable, especially in the attack made above the fort by the division of Hessians that marched from King' s Bridge, and where Lieutenant-Colonel Rowlings, of the late Colonel Stevenson' s regiment, was posted. They burnt yesterday one or two houses on the heights and contiguous to the fort, and appeared, by advices from General Greene, to be moving in the evening their main body down towards the city. Whether they will close the campaign without attempting something more, or make an incursion into Jersey, must be determined by the events themselves.

As Fort Lee was always considered as only necessary in conjunction with that on the east side of the river, to preserve the communication across and to prevent the enemy from a free navigation, it has become of no importance by the loss of the other, or not so material as to employ a force for its defence. Being viewed in this light, and apprehending that the stores there would be precariously situated, their removal has been determined on to Boundbrook, above Brunswick, Princetown, Springfield, and Acquaykinac bridge, as places that will not be subject to sudden danger in case the enemy should pass the river, and which have been thought proper as repositories for some of our stores of provision and forage.

The troops belonging to the Flying-Camp, under Generals Hand and Beal, with what remains of General Erwin' s brigade, are now at Fort Lee, where they will continue until the stores are got away. By the time that is effected their term of inlistment will be near expiring; and if the enemy should make a push in this quarter, the only troops that there will be to oppose ' em will be Hand' s, Haslet' s, the regiments from Virginia, and that lately Smallwood' s, the latter greatly reduced by the losses it sustained on Long-Island, &c˙, and sickness. Nor are the rest by any means complete. In addition to these, I am told there are a few of the Militia of this State which have been called in by Governour Livingston. I shall make such a disposition of the whole at Brunswick, and at the intermediate posts, as shall seem most likely to guard against the designs of the enemy, and to prevent them making an irruption or foraging with detached parties.

The enclosed letter from Colonels Miles and Atlee will show Congress the distressed situation of our prisoners in New-York, and will become greater every day by the cold inclement season that is approaching. It will be happy if some expedient can be adopted, by which they may be furnished with necessary blankets and clothing. Humanity and the good of the service require it. I think the mode suggested by these gentlemen for establishing a credit appears


as likely to succeed, and as eligible as any that occurs to me. It is probable that many articles that may be wanted can be obtained there, and upon better terms than elsewhere. In respect to provisions, their allowance perhaps is as good as the situation of General Howe' s stores will admit of. It has been said of late by deserters and others, that they were rather scant.

By a letter from the Paymaster-General, of the 7th, he says there will be a necessity that large and early remittances should be made him. The demands when the troops now in service are dismissed will be extremely great. Besides, the bounty to recruits will require a large supply; and he adds, that the Commissary-General has informed him that between this and the last of December, he shall have occasion for a million of dollars.

21st˙ — The unhappy affair of the 16th has been succeeded by further misfortunes. Yesterday morning a large body of the enemy landed between Dobbs' s Ferry and Fort Lee. Their object was evidently to enclose the whole of our troops and stores that lay between the North and Hackensack rivers, which form a very narrow neck of land. For this purpose they formed, and marched as soon as they had ascended the high grounds, towards the fort. Upon the first information of their having landed and of their movements, our men were ordered to meet them; but finding their numbers greatly superiour, and that they were extending themselves to seize on the passes over the river, it was thought prudent to withdraw our men, which was effected, and their retreat secured.

We lost the whole of the cannon that was at the fort, except two twelve-pounders, and a great deal of baggage, between two and three hundred tents, about a thousand barrels of flour and other stores in the Quartermaster' s department. This loss was inevitable. As many of the stores had been removed as circumstances and time would admit of. The ammunition had been happily got away. Our present situation between Hackensack and Passaick rivers being exactly similar to our late one, and our force here by no means adequate to an opposition that will promise the smallest probability of success, we are taking measures to retire over the waters of the latter, when the best disposition will be formed that circumstances will admit of.

By Colonel Cadwalader, who has been permitted by General Howe to return to his friends, I am informed the surrender of the garrison on the 16th was on the common terms as prisoners of war. The loss of the Hessians about three hundred privates and twenty-seven officers killed and wounded; about forty of the British troops, and two or three officers. The loss on our side but inconsiderable. I beg leave to refer you to him for a more particular account, and also for his relation of the distresses of our prisoners. Colonels Miles and Atlee' s letter, mentioned above, upon this subject, was through mistake sent from hence yesterday evening. The mode of relief proposed by them was a credit or supply of cash, through the means of Mr˙ Franks. This seems to be doubtful, as he is said to be in confinement by Colonel Cadwalader, provided it would have been otherwise practicable.

I have the honour to be, with great respect, sir, your most obedient servant,


P˙ S˙ Your favour of the 16th was duly received. My letter to the Board of War on the subject of the return of the Waldeckers, I presume you will have soon.