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General Lee to General Washington



New-York, February 19, 1776.

DEAR GENERAL: I am extremely happy that there is any opening for a more comfortable establishment for poor Palfrey than his present. He is a valuable and capable man, and the pittance of a simple Aid-de-campship is wretched for a man who has a family to support. On this principle and in obedience to your commands, I shall send him to Head-Quarters without delay. I must, at the same time, confess, that the loss will be irreparable to me, particularly if I am detached to Canada, of which there is the greatest probability, as I have received letters from divers members of the Congress, expressing their wishes that I should be employed in that department. Messrs˙ Griffin and Byrd are very good young men, but pretty much in the predicament of your Bayler. They can ride, understand, and deliver verbal orders; but you might as well set them to the task of translating an Arabick or, Irish manuscript, as expect that they should, in half a day, copy a half sheet of orders. However, I must bustle through the difficulties and not keep Palfrey out of the channel of a better provision. If I go to Canada, I suppose I shall be allowed Secretaries, one French and one English. I do not see how it is possible to manage matters with less. Appropos: my dear General, if this is to be my province, shall you take it ill if I apply for one, of my two Brigadiers, either Greene or Sullivan? It is a pleasure to have some officer about us in whom we can place confidence.

The ships-of-war which were here have been frightened away. The Asia lies between Nutter' s and Bedlpe' s Island; the Dutchess of Gordon, with his Excellency Governour Tryon, is under, her stern; the Phenix is statloined a league below the Narrows; the Mercury and General Clinton must inevitably fall into the hands of our fleet, unless they are fast asleep. We have taken strong hold of Hell-gate, so that the passage betwixt Long-Island and the continent is absolutely blocked up to the enemy.

I wait for some more force, to prepare a post or retrenched encampment on Long-Island, opposite to the city, for three thousand men. This is, I think, a capital object; for should the enemy take possession of New-York when Long-Island is in our hands, they will find it almost impossible to subsist. The Jerseys are too well manned, and Connecticut, we know, will not furnish them with any thing. What to do with the city, I own, puzzles me; it is so encircled with deep, navigable water, that whoever commands the sea must command the town. To-morrow I shall begin to dismantle that part of the fort next the tovyn, to prevent its being converted into a citadel. I shall barrier the principal streets, and at least if I cannot make it a Continental garrison, it shall be a disputable field of battle.

Enclosed I send you a return of the good and indifferent pieces of cannon. The number of the bad, (those I mean totally unfit for service,) are, I believe, about sixty. As no Commissary of Stores has been appointed until this instant, it is impossible to give you a return of the other stores by this post, but you shall have it by the next. Lord Stirling is a great acquisition. He is a most zealous, active and accurate officer.

A captain of a ship from Cadiz, who is a very intelligent person, tells us that Lord Howe and Captain Barrington, or Admiral Harrington are appointed Commissioners


to propose terms to the Congress: this he had from the Consul Hardy. What danm' d fools the Ministers are?

How does your recruiting go on for the standing Army? Be so good as to tell Gates, to whom I shall write by the next post, that Mr˙ Nourse enclosed no letters for him.

If little Eustace is not provided for in your Army, and I should go to Canada, I think he had better be sent to me, and I will consign him to his uncle.

I am got quit of my gout and fever, but remain extremely weak and tender. God preserve you, my dear General, from all disorders, at least until we have trampled Satan under our feet.

My love to Mrs˙ Washington and all the ladies.

Adieu˙ Yours, most faithfully, CHARLES LEE.