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Letter from General Washington to General Gates


New York, July 19, 1776.

DEAR SIR: I expected ere this to have heard from you. As I have not, I will open the correspondence, by expressing my exceeding great concern on account of the determination of your Board of General Officers, to retreat from Crown Point to Ticonderoga, assigning (contrary to the opinion of all your Field-Officers) for reason, that the former place is not tenable with your present force, or the force expected. My concern arises from information, and a firm belief, that your relinquishing Crown Point is, in its consequences, a relinquishment of the Lakes, and all the advantages to be derived therefrom; for it does not admit of a doubt but that the enemy will possess themselves, if possible, of that pass (which is a key to all these Colonies) the moment you leave it, and thereby confine your vessels to the narrow part of the Lake in front of that post; or, by having them in the rear of it, cut off all kind of supplies from, and intercourse between, your camp and them; securing by this means a free and uninterrupted passage into the three New England Governments, for invasion thereof. Nothing but a belief that you have actually removed the Army from the Point to Ticonderoga and demolished the works at the former, and the fear of creating dissensions and encouraging a spirit of remonstrating against the conduct of superior officers by inferiors, have prevented me, by advice of the General Officers here, from directing the post at Crown Point to be held till Congress should decide upon the propriety of its evacuation. As the case stands, I can give no order in the matter, lest between two opinions, neither of the places are put into such a posture of defence as to resist an advancing enemy. I must, however, express my sorrow at the resolution of your Council, and wish that it had never happened, as everybody who speaks of it also does, and that the measure could yet be changed with propriety.

We have the enemy full in view of us, but their operations are to be suspended till the reinforcement hourly expected arrives, when I suppose there will be pretty warm work. Lord Howe is arrived. He and the General, his brother, are appointed Commissioners to dispense pardons to repenting sinners. My compliments to the gentlemen with you of my acquaintance.

I am, dear sir, your most obedient servant,

To Major-General Gates.