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General Washington to the President of Congress



General Greene' s Quarters, 16th November, 1776.

SIR: Since I had the honour of addressing you last, an important event has taken place, of which I wish to give you the earliest intelligence. The preservation of the passage of the North River was an object of so much consequence, that I thought no pains or expense too great for that purpose, and therefore, after sending off all the valuable stores, except such as were necessary for its defence, I determined,


agreeable to the advice of most of the General Officers, to risk something to defend the post on the east side, called Mount Washington. When the Army moved up in consequence of General Howe' s landing at Frog-Point, Colonel Magaw was left on that command, with about twelve hundred men, and orders given to defend it to the last. Afterwards, reflecting upon the smallness of the garrison, and the difficulty of their holding it, if General Howe should fall down upon it with his whole force, I wrote to General Greene, who had the command on the Jersey shore, directing him to govern himself by circumstances, and to retain or evacuate the post as he should think best, and revoking the absolute order to Colonel Magaw, to defend the post to the last extremity. General Greene, struck with the importance of the post, and the discouragement which our evacuation of posts must necessarily have given, reinforced Colonel Magaw with detachments from several regiments of the Flying-Camp, but chiefly of Pennsylvania, so as to make up the number about two thousand.

In this situation things were yesterday, when General Howe demanded the surrender of the garrison, to which Colonel Magaw returned a spirited refusal. Immediately upon receiving an account of this transaction, I came from Hackensack to this place, and had partly crossed the North-River, when I met General Putnam and General Greene, who were just returning from thence, and informed me that the troops were in high spirits, and would make a good defence; and, it being late at night, I returned. Early this morning Colonel Magaw posted his troops partly in the lines thrown up by our Army on our first coming thither from New-York, and partly on a commanding hill laying north of Mount Washington, the lines being all to the southward. In this position the attack began about ten o' clock, which our troops stood, and returned the fire in such a manner as gave me great hopes the enemy was entirely repulsed. But at this time a body of troops crossed Harlem river in boats, and landed inside of the second lines, our troops being then engaged in the first. Colonel Cadwalader, who commanded in the lines, sent off a detachment to oppose them; but they, being overpowered by numbers, gave way; upon which Colonel Cadwalader ordered his troops to retreat, in order to gain the fort. It was done with much confusion; and the enemy crossing over came in upon them in such a manner that a number of them surrendered. At this time the Hessians advanced on the north side of the fort in very large bodies. They were received by the troops posted there with proper spirit, and kept back a considerable time. But at length they were also obliged to submit to a superiority


of numbers, and retire under the cannon of the fort. The enemy, having advanced thus far, halted, and immediately a flag went in with a repetition of the demand of the fortress, as I suppose. At this time I sent a billet to Colonel Magaw, directing him to hold out, and I would endeavour this evening to bring off the garrison, if the fortress could not be maintained, as I did not expect it could, the enemy being possessed of the adjacent grounds. But before this reached him, he had entered too far into a treaty to retract. After which, Colonel Cadwalader told another messenger who went over, that they had been able to obtain no other terms than to surrender as prisoners of war. In this situation matters now stand. I have stopped General Beall' s and General Heard' s brigades, to preserve the post and stores here, which, with the other troops, I hope we shall be able to effect. I don' t yet know the numbers killed or wounded on either side, but from the heaviness and continuance of fire in some places, I imagine there must have been considerable execution. The loss of such a number of officers and men, many of whom have been trained with more than common attention, will, I fear, be severely felt; but when that of the arms and accoutrements is added, much more so, and must be a further incentive to procure as considerable a supply as possible for the new troops as soon as it can be done.

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