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General Lee to General Washington



New-York, February 14, 1776.

DEAR GENERAL: I should have written to you more constantly, but really had no means of conveying my letter. A Mr˙ Buchannan and Tolby, bound for Head-Quarters, will deliver you this. You will excuse the conciseness, as my time is short.

The Governour and Captain of man-of-war had threatened perdition to the town, if the cannon was removed from the batteries and wharves; but, I ever considered their threats


as a brutum fulmen, and even persuaded the town to be of the same way of thinking. We, accordingly, conveyed them to a place of safety in the middle of the day, and no cannonade ensued.

Captain Parker publishes a pleasant reason for his passive conduct. He says that it was manifestly my intention, and that of the New-Englandmen under my command, to bring down destruction on this town, so hated for their loyal principles; but that he was determined not to indulge us, so remained quiet out of spite. The people here laugh at his nonsense, and begin to despise the menaces which formerly used to throw them into convulsions. To do them justice, the whole show a wonderful alacrity; and, in removing the cannon, men and boys, of all ages, worked with the greatest zeal and pleasure. I really believe that the generality are as well affected as any on the Continent.

The Provincial Congress have ordered in fifteen hundred Minute-Men; a number equal to two battalions, are coming from Pennsylvania and the Jerseys. Lord Stirling' s Regiment is already here, but not complete: when the major part, or a sufficient number arrive, we shall begin our works. My intention is, to pull down that part of the fort on the town side, to prevent its being converted into a citadel for the enemy, and to erect a battery on a traverse in the street, to prevent their making a lodgment in it. A redoubt and battery at the pass of Hellgate will prevent their ships and tenders passing and repassing, to and from the Sound. We have fixed on a spot in Long-Island for a retrenched camp, which, I hope, will render it impossible for them to get footing on that important Island. As this camp can always be reinforced, it is our intention to make it so capacious as to contain four thousand men. The batteries on the pass of Hudson' s River will be secured as soon as possible; some of the heavy cannon from hence, must be sent up for the purpose. It is, really, a fine train we are in possession of. You shall have a return of the guns, as well as stores, by the post.

Captain Smyth is an excellent, intelligent, active officer; and I take the liberty of recommending him to your protection. Captain Badlam, of the Artillery, is likewise a man of great merit in his way.

You must pardon me, dear General, for a liberty I have taken. You know that Scars was to collect our volunteers in Connecticut; but he thought he could not succeed, unless he had some nominal office and rank; I accordingly, most impudently, by the virtue of the power deputed by you to me, (which power you never deputed,) appointed him assistant Adjutant-General, with rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, for the expedition. It can have no bad consequences; the man was much tickled, and it added spurs to his head. He is a creature of much spirit and publick virtue, and ought to have his back clapped.

With respect to the Canada expedition, which you indirectly propose to me, I have only one answer to make: Wherever I can be of most service, there I should choose to be. I have, indeed, just at this instant, one objection, which is, I am not without apprehensions that facing the cold may throw me into a relapse, so as not only to render me unfit for service there, but every where else. I am, indeed, much better, but extremely tender; I begin to walk; it has been a damned attack, a constant, violent fever attending it; I neither eat nor slept for eight days; but my fever is passed, and I begin to eat. A week, I hope, will set me up. Several members of Congress have indicated a desire I should go to Canada; I have explained to them my apprehensions, but assured them most honestly of my willingness; but, in fact, unless they expedite an army, and some heavy artillery, it will be in vain to trouble their heads about a General.

Colonel Richmore, who lately left Montreal, tells us, that what few troops are now there, will infallibly return home early in April. He is gone to the Congress, and I hope will give them (as he is capable) the necessary lights; but, whatever steps they take, be assured, dear General, that I am, with the greatest readiness, prepared to receive and execute yours and their commands.

Canada is, I confess, if I am only tolerably accoutred, a glorious field, which must flatter the ambition of yours, most sincerely,


To General Washington.