George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Charles Lee, 14 February 1776

From Major General Charles Lee

New York Febry the 14th 1776

Dr General

I shou’d have written to you more constantly but really had no means of conveying my letter—a Mr Buchanan and Tolby bound for head Quarters will deliver You this—You will excuse the conciseness as my time is short—The Governor1 and Capt. of Man of War had threaten’d perdition to the Town if the Cannon was remov’d from the Batteries and wharfs, but I ever considerd their threats as a Brutum fulmen, and even perswaded the Town to be of the same way of thinking—We accordingly conveyd them to a place of safety in the middle of the day, and no cannonade ensued—Capt. Parker publishes a pleasant reason for his passive conduct—He says that it was manifestly my intention and that of the N. England men under my command to bring down destruction on this Town so hated for their loyal principles but that He was determin’d not to indulge us, so remain’d quiet out of spite—The People here laugh at his nonsense, and begin to despise the menaces which formerly us’d to throw ’em into convulsions2—to do ’em justice The whole shew a wonderfull alacrity—and in removing the Cannon Men and Boys of all ages work’d with the greatest zeal and pleasure—I really believe that the generallity are as well affected as any on the Continent—the Provincial Congress have order’d in fiveteen hundred Minute Men—a Numb⟨er⟩ equal to two Battalions are coming from Pensylva⟨nia⟩ and the Jerseys3—Lord Sterlins Regt is already here but not compleat—when the Major part or a sufficient number arrive We shall begin our works—my intention is to pull down that part of the Fort on the Town side to prevent its being converted into a Citidal for the Enemy—and to erect a Battery on a traverse in the street to prevent their making a lodgment in it—a redoubt and battery at the pass of Hell Gate will prevent their Ships and Tenders passing and repassing to and from the Sound—We have fixd on a Spot in Long Island for a retrenchd Camp which I hope will render it impossible for ’em to get footing on that important Island as this Camp can always be reinforc’d it is our intention to make it so capacious as to contain four thoushand Men—the batteries on the pass of Hudsons River will be secur’d as soon as possible. some of the heavy Cannon from hence must be sent up for the purpose—it is really a fine train We are in possession of, You shall have a return of the guns as well as stores by the Post—Capt. Smyth is an excellent intelligent active Officer, and I take the liberty [of] recommending him to your protection—Capt. Badlam of the Artillery is likewise a Man of great merit in his way4—You must pardon me Dr General, for a liberty I have taken—You know that Sears was to collect our Volunteers in Connecticut—but He thought He coud not succeed unless He had some nominal Office and rank—I accordingly most impudently by the virtue of the power deputed by You to me (which power you never deputed) appointed him Adjudant General with rank of Lt Colonel for the expedition it can have no bad consequences, the Man was much tickled, and it added spurs to his feet—He is a creature of much spirit and public virtue and ought to have his back clapp’d—with respect to the Canada expedition which You indirectly propose to me,5 I have only one answer to make—wherever I can be of most service, there I shou’d chuse to be—I have indeed just at this instant one objection which is I am not without apprehensions that facing the Cold may throw me into a relapse so as not only to render me unfit for service there but evry where else—I am indeed much better, but extremely tender I begin to walk—it has been a damn’d attack—a constant violent fever attending it, I neither eat nor slept for eight days—but my fever is pass’d and I begin to eat—a week I hope will set me up—sevral Members of the Congress have indicated a desire I shou’d go to Canada, I have explain’d to em my apprehensions, but assur’d ’em most honestly of my willingness—but in fact unless They expedite an Army and some heavy Artillery it will be in vain to trouble their heads about a General—Colonel Richmore who lately left Montreal tell’s us that what few Troops are now there will infallibly return home early in April—He is gone to the Congress and I hope will give em (as He is capable) the necessary lights6—but whatever steps They take be assurd, Dr General, that I am with the greatest readiness prepar’d to receive and execute yours and their commands; Canada is I confess, if I am only tolerably accoutre’d a glorious Field which Must flatter the ambition of, Yours Most sincerely

C. Lee


1William Tryon.

2Capt. Hyde Parker, Jr. (1739–1807), son of Admiral Hyde Parker, Sr. (1714–1782), commanded the warship Phoenix, which had arrived at New York on 17 Dec. 1775. In July 1776 Parker made a daring raid up the Hudson River to the Tappan Zee, for which he was knighted in April 1779. He saw action during the Battle of Long Island in August 1776, and in December 1778 he convoyed the expedition that captured Savannah. Parker was shipwrecked on the coast of Cuba in October 1780 while on his way to England. He and his crew were soon rescued, and he served the remainder of the war in European waters.

3For Lee’s request to Congress for these two battalions, see Hancock to GW, 12 Feb. 1776, n.2.

4William Smith, a skilled engineer, and Stephen Badlam (1751–1815), a captain in the Continental artillery regiment, were sent from Cambridge in late January to assist Lee in defending New York. Smith served as chief engineer at New York until early April when he was replaced by Rufus Putnam, who had been GW’s first choice for the job in January (see Horatio Gates to Artemas Ward, 10 Jan. 1776, MHi: Ward Papers, and GW to Putnam, 31 Mar. 1776). Between 27 and 29 Feb. Lee loaned Smith to the commissioners in charge of fortifying the Hudson Highlands, and in two days Smith laid out three new works in the vicinity of West Point, including Fort Montgomery. Later this year Badlam served in Canada and at Crown Point and Ticonderoga. He resigned his commission in 1777 because of illness.

6Rudolphus Ritzema, lieutenant colonel of the 1st New York Regiment, left Montreal on 29 Jan. with orders from Gen. David Wooster “to consult with General Schuyler at Albany about the best Means to be put in Practice for a speedy Reduction of Quebec & for establishing the [New] York Battalions on a permanent Footing” (“Ritzema’s Journal,” description begins “Journal of Col. Rudolphus Ritzema of the First New York Regiment, August 8 1775 to March 30 1776.” Magazine of American History with Notes and Queries 1 (1877): 98–107. description ends 105). Schuyler subsequently referred him to Congress. Ritzema reached New York City on 11 Feb., and after discussing his views with Lee and the New York committee of safety, he proceeded the next day to Philadelphia where he arrived on 14 February. For Ritzema’s statement to Congress two days later, see ibid., 105–6. On 28 Mar. Congress appointed Ritzema colonel of the newly authorized 3d New York Regiment. During the next several months Ritzema served under GW in the New York campaign, but in November he left the Continental army and soon afterwards joined the British army as a lieutenant colonel. When Ritzema later petitioned the British government for reimbursement of his financial losses, he suggested that he deserted the American cause because of the Declaration of Independence (Palmer, Biographical Sketches of Loyalists description begins Gregory Palmer. Biographical Sketches of Loyalists of the American Revolution. Westport, Conn., and London, 1984. description ends , 730). It is more likely, however, that he acted out of bitterness over his perceived mistreatment by “Secret Enemies” in the Continental army (see Ritzema to GW, and GW to Ritzema, both 14 July 1776, and General Orders, 14, 17 July 1776). As a British officer Ritzema became an assistant quartermaster general in the West Indies. He eventually retired on half pay as a lieutenant colonel.

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