George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Lord Stirling, 14 March 1776

To Lord Stirling

Headquarters Cambridge 14th March 1776


I have Stronger reasons Since I Last wrote to you, to Confirm me in my oppinion that the Army under General Howe, is on its departure,1 all their movements pronounce it, but Lest it may be but a feint, I must Continue on my guard, & not weaken my Lines too much, untill I have a Certainty of their departure, it is given out, that they are bound to Halifax, but I am of opinion that Newyork is the place of their destination, it is the object worthy their attention, and it is the place, that we must use every endeavor to keep from them, for Should they get that town & the Command of the North River, they Can Stop the intercourse between the Northern & Southern Colonies, upon which depends the Safety of America, my feelings upon this Subject are So Strong that I woud not wish to give the enemy a Chance of Succeeding at your place, I Shall therefore dispatch a Regiment & Some independant Companies of Rifle men this day, & tomorrow or as Soon as it Conveniently Can, be don, five more Regiments will Set out from this Camp,2 I cannot part with more, while the enemy remain in Sight, but I have wrote to Governor Trumbull, to send you 2000, men as Soon as he possibly Can,3 if you Can get 1000 from New-jersey, with the militia of the Country Calld in, (if not repugnant to the Congress)4 I think you Can make a Sufficient Stand, until I can, with the main body of this Army join you, which you may depend upon, will be, as Soon as possible after I can, with any degree of Certainty, tell their Rout, the plan of defence formd by General Lee, is from what Little I know of the place, a very judicious one,5 I hope, nay I dare Say it is, Carrying into execution, with Spirit & Industry, you may judge from the enemy keeping So Long possesion of the town of Boston, against an Army Superior in numbers, & animated with the noble Spirit of Liberty, I Say you may judge by that, how much easier it is, to keep an enemy from forming a Lodgment in a place, than it will be to disposess them, when they get themselves fortifyed, as I have in my Last told you that the fate of this Campaign, of Course the fate of America depends upon you & the Army under your Command, Shoud the enemy attempt your quarter, I will, dwell no more thereon, tho the vast importance of the Subject, woud make an apology for repe[ti]tions, needless—I have the honor to be Sir Your Most Ob. H: Sert

Go: Washington

LS in Stephen Moylan’s writing, enclosed in GW to Hancock, 13 March 1776, DNA:PCC, item 152; LB, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; copy, in the writing of one of GW’s secretaries, sold by Ernest D. North, catalog 27, item 287, March 1913; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The LS is addressed “to the Officer Commanding the American Forces at Newyork.”

1Stephen Moylan wrote to Stirling on 9 Mar., informing him of the occupation of Dorchester Heights and the likely departure of the British from Boston within a short time. “His Excellency,” Moylan continued, “has good Reason to Imagine that New York, will be the place of their Destination, therefore desires that you will exert yourself to the utmost in preparing for their reception[.] he has ordered the armed Schooners to be in readiness to attend their Motions and give the earliest Intelligence of the Course they Steer by which Intelligence his Motions will be governed, if they Steer West, you may expect a large reinforcement from this Army, and in all probability the main Body will soon follow. You will please to communicate this to the provincial Congress or Convention who the General Doubts not will cooperate with you in using every endeavour to prevent their forming a Lodgment before his Excellency can send or come to your Assistance[.] the Fate of America depends upon this Campaign and the success of the Campaign will a good deal depend upon your exerting yourselves with Vigour on this Occasion” (ALS, anonymous donor, 1978; see also letter-book copy in DLC:GW). For similar letters see GW to Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., 9 Mar., and Moylan to the president of the New Hampshire General Court, 9 Mar., quoted in the New Hampshire General Court to GW, 12 Mar. 1776, n.1.

2For a discussion of the march of troops to New York, see Council of War, 13 Mar. 1776, n.2.

3See GW to Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., this date.

4GW is referring to the New York provincial congress.

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