Letter from General Lee to General Washington



Williamsburgh, May 10, 1776.

MY DEAR GENERAL: The most compendious method to give you an idea of the state of your Province is to enclose to you the result of a council of officers, every article of which is approved by your Convention. We have just


received an express from North-Carolina, informing us of the arrival of eight large transports in Cape-Fear River, on the whole containing, as it is supposed, about two thousand men. I had before, on a suspicion of their arrival, detached a battalion of Riflemen, and shall set out myself the day after to-morrow. The Convention has ordered twelve hundred Militia or Minute-men to that Province. My command (as you may easily conceive) is extremely perplexing from the consideration of the vast extent of vulnerable parts of this country, intersected by such a variety of navigable waters, and the expedition with which the enemy (furnished with canvass wings) can fly from one spot to another. Had we arms for the Minute-men, and half a dozen good field Engineers, we might laugh at their efforts; but in this article (like the rest of the Continent) we are miserably deficient. Engineers, we have but two, and they threaten to resign, as it is impossible that they should subsist on a more wretched pittance than common carpenters or bricklayers can earn. I have written to the Congress, entreating them to augment the pay: a word from you would, I make no doubt, effect it.

I wish, my dear General, you would send me Captain Smith, on condition the Congress make it worth his while, otherwise I have not the conscience to propose it. I am well pleased with your officers in general, and the men are good, some Irish rascals excepted. I have formed two companies of grenadiers to each regiment; and, with spears of thirteen feet long, their rifles (for they are all riflemen) slung over their shoulders, their appearance, is formidable, and the men are conciliated to the weapon. I am likewise furnishing myself with four-ounced rifled amusettes, which will carry an infernal distance; the two-ounced hit a half sheet of paper at five hundred yards distance. So much for military.

A noble spirit possesses the Convention. They are almost unanimous for independence, but differ in their sentiments about the mode; two days will decide it. I have the pleasure to inform you that I am extremely well in the opinion of the Senatorial part, as well as of the people at large. God send me the grace to preserve it. But their neighbours of Maryland (I mean their Council of Safety) make a most damnable clamor (as I am informed) on the subject of a letter I wrote to the Chairman of the Committee of Baltimore, to seize the person and papers of Mr˙ Eden, upon the discovery which was communicated to me of his treacherous correspondence with the Secretary of State; it was a measure not only justifiable in the eyes of God and men, but absolutely necessary. The Committee of Safety here are indeed as deep in the scrape as myself. The Congress must, and will, I dare say, support and vindicate the measure. Captain Green and his party are upon their march, as you ordered. I was a damned blockhead for bringing them so far, as their accounts will be intricate; but I hope not so intricate as not to be unriddled.

I send you an account of the money I advanced to the different officers — to Captains Smith, Lunt, and Green. I have taken the liberty to appoint a Sergeant Denmark, of the Rifle battalion, to do duty as an Ensign. He is a man of worth, and I beg that you will confirm his commission. Another Sergeant of the same battalion I have promoted to the rank of Second Lieutenant in the Artillery of this Province. He is a German, his name Holmer, and very deserving. If little Eustace cannot be provided for with you, I could wish, if there is a cheap method of doing it, you would send him to me, as I have it in my power to place him, and quite doat upon him. My love to Mrs˙ Washington, Gates, and her bad half; to Moylan; but Palfrey is a scoundrel, for not writing. Adieu, my dear General.

Yours, most entirely,

To General Washington.