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Letter from General Washington to the President of Congress



[Read August 12, 1776. Referred to the Board of War.]

New York, August 8, 1776.

SIR: By yesterday morning' s post, I was honoured with your favour of the 2d instant, with sundry resolutions of Congress, to which I shall pay strict attention. As the proposition for employing the Stockbridge Indians has been approved, I have written to Mr˙ Edwards, one of the Commissioners, and who lives among them, requesting him to engage them, or such as are willing to enter the service. I have directed him to indulge them with liberty to join this or the Northern Army, or both, as their inclination may lead.

I wish the salutary consequences may result from the regulation respecting seamen taken, that Congress have in view. From the nature of this kind of people, and the privileges granted on their entering into our service, I should suppose many of them will do it. We want them much.


I yesterday transmitted the intelligence I received from the deserters from the Solebay man-of-war. The enclosed copy of a letter by last night' s post, from the Honourable Mr˙ Bowdoin, with the information of a Captain Kennedy, lately taken, corroborate their accounts respecting the Hessian troops. Indeed, his report makes the fleet and armament to be employed against us greater than what we have heard they would be; however, there remains no doubt of their being large and formidable, and such as will require our most vigorous exertions to oppose them. Persuaded of this, and knowing how much inferior our numbers are and will be to theirs when the whole of their troops arrive, and of the important consequences that may and will flow from the appeal that will soon be made, I have written to Connecticut and New Jersey for all the succour they can afford, and also to the Convention of this State. What I may receive and in what time, the event must determine. But I would fain hope the situation, the exigency of our affairs, will call forth the most strenuous efforts and early assistance of those who are friends to the cause. I confess there is but too much occasion for their exertions. I confidently trust they will not be withheld.

I have enclosed a copy of a letter from Mr˙ Bowdoin, respecting the Eastern Indians. Congress will thereby perceive that they profess themselves to be well attached to our interest, and the summary of the measures taken to engage them in our service. I have the treaty at large between the honourable Council of the Massachusetts, on behalf of the United States, with the Delegates of the St˙ John' s and the Mickmack Tribes. The probability of a copy' s being sent already, and its great length, prevent one coming herewith. If Congress have not had it forwarded to them, I will send a copy by the first opportunity after notice that it has not been received.

August 9th. — By a report received from General Greene last night, at sunset and a little after about a hundred boats were seen bringing troops from Staten Island to the ships; three of which had fallen down towards the Narrows, having taken in soldiers from thirty of the boats. He adds, that by the best observations of several of the officers, there appeared to be a general embarkation.

I have written to General Mercer for two thousand men from the Flying Camp. Colonel Smallwood' s battalion, as part of them, I expect this forenoon; but where the rest are to come from, I know not, as, by the General' s last return, not more than three or four hundred of the new levies had got in.

In my letter of the 5th, I enclosed a general return of the Army under my immediate command, but I imagine the following state will give Congress a more perfect idea, though not a more agreeable one, of our situation: For the several posts on New York, Long, and Governour' s Islands, and Paulus Hook, we have fit for duty 10,514, sick present 3,039, sick absent 629, on command 2,946, on furlough 97: Total 17,225. In addition to these, we are only certain of Colonel Smallwood' s battalion in case of an immediate attack. Our posts, too, are much divided, having waters between many of them, and some distant from others fifteen miles. These circumstances, sufficiently distressing of themselves, are much aggravated by the sickness that prevails through the Army. Every day more or less are taken down, so that the proportion of men that may come in cannot be considered as a real and serviceable augmentation in the whole. These things are melancholy, but they are nevertheless true. I hope for better. Under every disadvantage my utmost exertions shall be employed to bring about the great end we have in view; and so far as I can judge from the professions and apparent disposition of my troops, I shall have their support. The superiority of the enemy and the expected attack, do not seem to have depressed their spirits. These considerations lead me to think, that though the appeal may not terminate so happily in our favour as I could wish, that yet they will not succeed in their views, without considerable loss. Any advantage they may get, I trust, will cost them dear.

Eight o' clock, A˙ M˙ — By the Rev˙ Mr˙ Maddison and a Mr˙ Johnston, two gentlemen of Virginia, who came from Staten Island yesterday, and where they arrived the day before in the packet with Colonel Guy Johnson, I am informed that nothing material had taken place in England when they left it; that there had been a change in the French Ministry, which many people thought foreboded a


war; that it seemed to be believed by many that Congress would attempt to buy off the foreign troops, and that it might be effected without great difficulty. Their accounts from Staten Island nearly correspond with what we had before. They say that every preparation is making for an attack; that the force now upon the Island is about fifteen thousand; that they appear very impatient for the arrival of the foreign troops, but a very small part having got in. Whether they would attempt anything before they came, they are uncertain; but they are sure they will as soon as they arrive, if not before. They say, from what they could collect from the conversation of officers, &c˙, they mean to hem us in by getting above us and cutting off all communication with the country. That this is their plan seems to be corroborated and confirmed by the circumstance of some ships-of-war going out at different times within a few days past, and other vessels. It is probable that a part are to go round and come up the Sound.

Mr˙ Maddison says Lord Howe' s powers were not known when he left England; that General Conway moved, before his departure, that they might be laid before the Commons, and had his motion rejected by a large majority.

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

To the Hon˙ John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress.