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Letter from General Lee to General Washington



January 5, 1776.

DEAR GENERAL: The consequences of the enemy' s possessing themselves of New-York, have appeared to me so terrible, that I have scarcely been able to sleep from apprehensions on the subject. These apprehensions daily increase. You have it in your power, at present, to prevent this dreadful event. If I do not mistake, the Congress have given you authority to take any step in that place, as well as here, which you shall think necessary for the publick service; but if they have not given you, expressly and literally, authority with respect to the city of New-York, I am confident that any measure you think right to plan, and put in execution, will be approved of. I have the greatest reason to believe, from the most authentick intelligence, that the best members of the Congress expect that you would lake much upon yourself, as refering


every matter of importance to them is, in fact, defeating the project. We have an instance of this in the fate of the motion for seizing the person of Mr˙ Tryon. To you they loot up for decision. By your conduct they are fo be inspired with decision. In fact, your situation is such, that the salvation of the whole depends on your striking, at certain crises, vigorous strokes, without previously communicating your intention. On this principle, I venture to propose the following scheme, and to offer myself for the execution:

New-York must be secured; but it will never, I am afraid, be secured by direct order of the Congress, for obvious reasons. They find themselves awkwardly situated on this head. You must step in to their relief. I am sensible that no man can be spared from the lines, in our present circumstances; but I would propose that you should detach me into Connecticut, and lend your name for collecting a body of volunteers. I am assured that I shall find no difficulty in assembling a sufficient number for the purposes wanted. This body, in conjunction (if there should appear occasion to summon them) with the Jersey regiment, under the command of Lord Stirling, now at Elizabethtown, will effect the security of New-York, and the expulsion or suppression of that dangerous banditti of Tories who have appeared in Long-Island, with the professed intention of acting against the authority of the Congress. Not to crush these serpents, before their rattles are grown, would be ruinous. I am assured, likewise, that the Connecticut volunteers, who will offer themselves for the service, will expect no pay, but at most the expenses of their provisions, and, perhaps, of carriages for the conveyance of their baggage. When once we have secured the place with street-fortifications, and engaged the friends of liberty so far that they cannot recede, purged the city and Long Island of the leading tories, the residence of those Connecticut volunteers, will be no longer necessary; for there is no reason to doubt that the Congress will detach troops from Pennsylvania, to garrison the place, although, from reasons hinted at, they may not choose to commence the operation. This manoeuvre I not only think prudent and fight, but absolutely necessary to our salvation; and if it meets, as I ardently hope it will, with your approbation, the sooner it is entered upon the better. Indeed, the delay of a single day may be fatal.

I am dear General, yours, most respectfully,