Primary tabs

Letter from General Washington to the New-York Committee of Safety, proposing a plan of co-operation



New-York, April 20, 1776.

GENTLEMEN: I thank you for the polite and ready attention you paid to my requisition of the 17th instant. When the civil and military powers co-operate, and afford mutual aid to each other, there can be little doubt of things going well. I have now to request the favour of your information, in what manner and in what time a body of two thousand, or two thousand five hundred Militia, might be collected from this Colony, for actual service, upon any sudden emergency.

Although we may not, and, I trust in God, shall not have occasion for their aid, common prudence does nevertheless dictate the expediency of a preconcerted plan for calling them in, that, in case of necessity, they may be drawn together in proper corps, without tumult or disorder, and at the same time with the utmost expedition. This will not be the case if men are not regularly unbodied, and notified that they are to step forth at a moment' s warning.

The idea that strikes me as the most proper to be pursued at present is, to establish out of the Continental forces good look-outs on the Heights and Highlands, at the entrance of the harbour, who, upon the appearance of a fleet, shall make such signals as (being answered from place to place) shall convey the earliest intelligence to Head-Quarters, of the strength and approach of the enemy. These signals, for greater certainty, to be followed by expresses; and then, in case anything formidable should appear, for the Committee of Safety, (if sitting, if not, those to whom the power shall be delegated,) upon application from the commanding officer of the Continental forces, to order in two or more battalions, as the exigency of the case may require; or, for greater despatch, such Militia, or such part of them as shall be allotted to this service by the Committee, might be assembled (if in the town or vicinity) by signals, to be agreed on.

A mode of proceeding of a similar kind concerted with Jersey, would bring in a reinforcement speedily, and without those irregularities and unnecessary expenses which but too frequently attend the movement of Militia.

Thus, gentlemen, I have expressed my sentiments to you upon the occasion. Your prudence will suggest to you the necessity of adopting these or other methods of a like nature, and your wisdom will point out the most effectual and expeditious manner of carrying them into execution. I therefore submit them to your consideration; and am, with great respect, gentlemen, your most obedient and very humble servant,


To the Chairman of the Committee of Safety for the Colony of New-York.