George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Hancock, 18 October 1776

To John Hancock

Harlem Heights Octobr the 18th 1776


I was Yesterday morning honoured with your favor of the 15th with the Resolutions of the 11th and 14th. the latter by which Congress have authorized me to appoint Monsr Pennet a Brevet Aid De Camp, claims a return of my acknowledgements.1

Last night I received a Letter from Mr Varrick, Secretary to Genl Schuyler, inclosing a Copy of One from Genl Arnold to Genl Gates. The Intelligence transmitted by Genl Arnold being of an extremely interesting and important nature, I thought it adviseable to forward the same immediately by Express—you have a Copy herewith which contains the particulars and to which I beg leave to refer you.2

The Accounts transmitted yesterday by post, will inform you of the movements of the Enemy and of the measures judged necessary to be pursued by us to counteract their designs. I have nothing to add on this Head, except that Ten or Eleven Ships which have been prevented passing Hell Gate for Two or three days for want of Wind, are now under way & proceeding up the Sound—Among them there appear to be two Frigates, the rest probably have in Stores &c.3

Inclosed is a Copy of the last Genl return I have been able to obtain. It only comes down to the 5th Instt.4 the situation of our Affairs & the almost constant necessity of sending detachments from one place to another, to watch the Enemy’s motions have prevented the Officers from making them with regularity. I have the Honor to be with great esteem Sir Your Most Obedt St

Go: Washington

LS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; LB, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Congress read this letter on 21 Oct. and referred it to the Board of War (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 6:889).

1This letter has not been found. For Congress’s resolution of 14 Oct. concerning Pierre Penet, see ibid., 869–70. On that date Congress also resolved in response to GW’s letters to Hancock of 7 and 8 Oct. that the states in which prisoners were held should furnish Congress with accounts of the expenses incurred in that regard and that $500,000 be sent immediately to the paymaster general to pay bounties to soldiers reenlisting for the duration of the war (see ibid.). The resolutions of 11 Oct. apparently were the ones that Congress passed on that day giving GW permission to release Chambault and asking him to use every means possible to obstruct the Hudson River in order to prevent the British warships above Fort Washington from receiving any aid (see ibid., 866).

2Arnold’s letter to Gates of 12 Oct., a copy of which Richard Varick enclosed in his letter to GW of 14 Oct., contains news of the American defeat at Valcour Bay. The copy of Arnold’s letter that GW sent to Hancock is in DNA:PCC, item 152.

3These transports carrying Hessian soldiers from Staten Island had been trying since 13 Oct. to sail up the East River and pass through Hell Gate to the army at Throg’s Point, but the lack of sufficient wind delayed them, because it was, Frederick Mackenzie says, “very dangerous to attempt going through Hellgate with those large vessels, with the tide only” (Mackenzie, Diary description begins Diary of Frederick Mackenzie Giving a Daily Narrative of His Military Service as an Officer of the Regiment of Royal Welch Fusiliers during the Years 1775–1781 in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York. 2 vols. Cambridge, Mass., 1930. description ends , 1:78–80). On 17 Oct. the sloop Senegal got through Hell Gate “with much labor and danger,” touching the shore several times on the way, but this morning the warship Rose made the passage “without any difficulty, having a fine wind, & favorable tide.” The transports soon followed, and the Hessians joined Howe’s army later this day (ibid., 81–82).

4The general return of GW’s army for 5 Oct. shows that he had under his immediate command 1,499 commissioned officers, 229 staff officers, 2,164 noncommissioned officers, and 25,735 rank and file, of whom 14,145 were present and fit for duty, 4,738 were sick present, 3,209 were sick absent, 3,982 were on command, and 127 were on furlough. Attached are returns for Knox’s artillery regiment, which had a total of 1,160 officers and men, and for the Connecticut and Rhode Island militia, which reported having 179 commissioned officers, 24 staff officers, 332 noncommissioned officers, and 1,774 rank and file, of which 1,275 were present and fit for duty. A note at the end of the return reads: “N.B. Gen. Lincoln’s Militia from Massachusetts, computed at 4000, so scattered & ignorant of the Forms of Returns that none can yet be got—The Magazines of Provisions being formed along the Sound & among People of an inimical Disposition it is absolutely necessary they should be well guarded—Two Regimts of New Hampshire Militia on Command—one at the White Plains the other at the Fish Kills—under the like Circumstances. The moving State of the Army has prevented Returns being made since the above Date” (DNA: RG 93, Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775–83; see also Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 5th ser., 2:907–10).

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