Letter from General Washington to the President of Congress


[Read in Congress July 6, 1776.]

New-York, July 4, 1776.

SIR: When I had the honour to address you on the 30th ultimo, I transmitted a copy of a letter I had received from a gentleman, a member of the honourable General Court, suggesting the improbability of succours coming from thence in any reasonable time either for the defence of this place, or to reinforce our troops engaged in the Canada expedition. I am sorry to inform you that, from a variety of intelligence, his apprehensions appear to be just and to be fully confirmed; nor have I reason to expect but that the supplies from the other two Governments — Connecticut and New-Hampshire — will be extremely slow and greatly deficient in number, as it now seems beyond question and clear to demonstration, that the enemy mean to direct their operations and bend their most vigorous efforts against this Colony, and will attempt to unite their two armies — that under General Burgoyne and


the one arrived here — I cannot but think the expedient proposed by that gentleman is exceeding just, and that the Continental regiments now in the Massachusetts-Bay should be immediately called from thence and be employed where there is the strongest reason to believe their aid will be indispensably necessary. The expediency of the measure I shall submit to the consideration of Congress, and will only observe, as my opinion, that there is not the most distant prospect of an attempt being made where they now are by the enemy; and if there should, that the Militia that can be assembled upon the shortest notice will be more than equal to repel it. They are well armed, resolute, and determined, and will instantly oppose any invasion that may be made upon their own Colony.

I shall also take the liberty again to request Congress to interest themselves in having the Militia raised and forwarded with all possible expedition as fast as any considerable number of men can be collected that are to compose the flying-camp. This I mentioned in my letter yesterday, but think proper to repeat it, being more and more convinced of the necessity. The camp will be in the neighbourhood of Amboy, and I shall be glad that the Conventions or Committees of Safety of those Governments from whence they come, may be requested to give us previous notice of their marching, that I may form some plan and direct provisions to be made for their reception. The disaffection of the people at that place, and others not far distant, is exceedingly great, and unless it is checked and overawed, it may become more general and be very alarming. The arrival of the enemy will encourage it; they, or at least a part of them, are already landed on Staten-Island, which is quite contiguous, and about four thousand were marching about it yesterday, as I have been advised, and are leaving no arts unessayed to gain the inhabitants to their side, who seem but too favourably disposed. It is not unlikely that in a little time they may attempt to cross to the Jersey side, and induce many to join them, either from motives of interest or fear, unless there is a force to oppose them.

As we are fully convinced that the Ministerial Army we shall have to oppose this campaign will be great and numerous, and well know that the utmost industry will be used, as it has already been, to excite the savages and every body of people to arms against us whom they can influence, it certainly behooves us to strain every nerve to counteract their designs; I would, therefore, submit it to Congress whether, especially as our schemes for employing the Western Indians do not seem to be attended with any great prospect of success from General Schuyler' s accounts, it may not be advisable to take measures to engage those of the eastward — the St˙ Johns, Nova-Scotia, Penobscot, &c˙, in our favour. I have been told that several might be got, perhaps five or six hundred or more, readily to join us. If they can, I should imagine it ought to be done; it will prevent our enemies from securing their friendship; and further, they will be of infinite service in annoying and harassing them should they ever attempt to penetrate the country. Congress will be pleased to consider the measure, and if they determine to adopt it, I conceive it will be necessary to authorize and request the General Court of the Massachusetts-Bay to carry it into execution; their situation and advantage will enable them to negotiate a treaty and an alliance better than it can be done by any person else.

I have been honoured with your two favours of the 1st instant, and agreeable to the wishes of Congress shall put Monsieur Weibert in the best place I can to prove his abilities in the art he professes. I shall send him up immediately to the works erecting towards King' s Bridge, under the direction of General Mifflin, whom I shall request to employ him.

I this moment received a letter from General Greene, an extract of which have enclosed. The intelligence it contains is of the most important nature, and evinces the necessity of the most spirited and vigorous exertions on our part. The expectation of the fleet under Admiral Howe is certainly the reason the Army already come has not begun their hostile operation. When that arrives we may look for the most interesting events, and such as, in all probability, will have considerable weight in the present contest. It behooves us to prepare in the best manner; and I submit again to Congress, whether the accounts given by these prisoners do not show the propriety of calling the several Continental


regiments from the Massachusetts Government, raising the flying-camp with all possible despatch, and engaging the Eastern Indians.

July 5. — General Mercer arrived here on Tuesday, and the next morning was ordered to Paulus Hook, to make some arrangements of the Militia as they came in, and the best disposition he could to prevent the enemy crossing from Staten-Island, if they should have any such views. The distressed situation of the inhabitants of Elizabethtown and Newark has since induced me, upon their application, to give up all the Militia from the Jerseys except those engaged for six months. I am hopeful they will be able to repel any incursions that may be attempted. Generals Mercer and Livingston are concerting plans for the purpose. By a letter from the latter last night, I am informed the enemy are throwing up small works at all the passes on the north side of Staten-Island, which it is probable they mean to secure. None of the Connecticut Militia are yet arrived, so that the reinforcement we have received is very inconsiderable.

A letter from General Schuyler, with sundry enclosures, of which Nos˙ 1, 2, and 3, are exact copies, this moment came to hand, and will no doubt claim, as they ought to do, the immediate attention of Congress. The evils which must inevitably follow a disputed command are too obvious and alarming to admit a moment' s delay in your decision thereupon; and although I do not presume to advise in a matter now of this delicacy, yet as it appears evident that the Northern Army has retreated to Crown Point, and mean to act upon the defensive only, I cannot help giving it as my opinion that one of the Majors-General in that quarter would be more usefully employed here, or in the flying-camp, than there; for it becomes my duty to observe, if another experienced officer is taken from hence in order to command the flying-camp, that your grand Army will be entirely stripped of Generals who have seen service, being in a manner already destitute of such. My distress on this account, the appointment of General Whitcomb to the Eastern Regiments, a conviction in my own heart that no troops will be sent to Boston, and the certainty of a number coming to this place, occasioned my postponing from time to time sending any General Officer from hence to the eastward heretofore, and now I shall wait the sentiments of Congress relative to the five regiments in Massachusetts-Bay before I do anything in this matter.

The Commissary-General has been with me this morning concerning the other matter contained in General Schuyler' s letter, respecting the business of that department. He has, I believe, in order to remove difficulties, recalled Mr˙ Avery, but seems to think it necessary in that case that Mr˙ Livingston should be left to himself, as he cannot be responsible for persons not of his own appointment. This matter should also be clearly defined by Congress. I have already given my opinion of the necessity of these matters being under one general direction, in so full and clear a manner that I shall not take up the time of Congress to repeat it in this place.

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