George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the New York Convention, 16 November 1776

To the New York Convention

⟨Genl Green’s Qrs [Fort Lee, N.J.]⟩
Novr 16: 1776⟩


I do myself the ⟨honor to transmit⟩ to you, a Copy of Sundry Resolves ⟨of Congress which⟩ came to hand Yesterday Evening. By ⟨these you⟩ will perceive that they have entered in⟨to some⟩ New regulations respecting the Inlistm⟨ent of⟩ the New Army, and reprobating the m⟨easures,⟩ which I presume you have heard, have ⟨been⟩ adopted by the State of Massachusetts ⟨Bay, for⟩ raising the Quota to be furnished by t⟨hem⟩—My view in doing this, is to inform y⟨ou of⟩ their sense upon this Subject, and that ⟨they⟩ will admit of no departure from the ⟨Terms⟩ they themselves have heretofore published, ⟨except⟩ in the Instances mentioned in these Reso⟨lves.⟩ They are plain & explicit, and I will take th⟨e liberty⟩ to add, should form a part of the Instructi⟨ons⟩ to be given to the Officers who may be appoin⟨ted⟩ to recruit.1

I would also beg leave to observe that the necessity of raising the New Army, becom⟨es⟩ more and more urgent and is such as calls for every possible exertion to effect it.2 The Cong⟨ress⟩ convinced of this, and seeing the delays of some of the States in carrying the Resolves recommend⟨ed⟩ to them into execution, have empowered and required me, to nominate Officers to the Regime⟨nts⟩ of such States as have not sent Commissioners ⟨to⟩ the Army for that purpose.3 As this is a mat⟨ter⟩ in which I would not wish to interfere at th⟨is⟩ time, farther than compelled by their direction and the situation of our Affairs, I shall be ha⟨ppy to know what progress you have made in this Instance, and whether the arrangement for your Regiments is compleated. If it is not finis⟩hed, le⟨t⟩ me en⟨treat you to do it, as speedi⟩ly as possible. The necessity is obvio⟨us & must be fe⟩lt by every One. till the Officers are ⟨appointed,⟩ no measures can be pursued for enlising M⟨en⟩.

If the bounty allowed by Congress could be paid down, ⟨it is⟩ more than probable it might induce many ⟨to eng⟩age more readily. Under this Idea, I shall be ⟨ready⟩ to advance to such Officers as you appoint to ⟨the co⟩mmand of the Regiments upon your requisition, ⟨such⟩ Sums of Money as may be sufficient for that ⟨purp⟩ose, If provision has not or shall not be ⟨other⟩wise made by Congress for the same.

I am sorry to inform you, that this day ⟨abou⟩t 12 OClock, the Enemy made a General Attack ⟨upon⟩ our Lines about Fort Washington, which having ⟨carr⟩ied, the Garrison retired within the Fort. Colo. ⟨Ma⟩Gaw finding there was no prospect of a Retreating ⟨a⟩cross the North River,4 surrendered the Post. We do ⟨n⟩ot yet know our own loss or that of the Enemy in forcing the Lines, but I immagine it must have been pretty considerable on both sides, as the Fire in some parts was of long continuance and heavy; neither do I know the Terms of Capitulation. The Force of the Garrison before the Attack, was about 2000 Men.5 I have the Honor to be with great respect Gentn Yr Most Obedt Servt

Go: Washington

LS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, N: New York Provincial Congress Revolutionary Papers; Df, in Harrison’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The LS was badly damaged in the New York State Library fire of 1911. Mutilated parts of the text are supplied within angle brackets from the draft. The New York committee of safety read this letter on 21 Nov. (see N.Y. Prov. Congress Journals description begins Journals of the Provincial Congress, Provincial Convention, Committee of Safety, and Council of Safety of the State of New-York, 1775–1776–1777. 2 vols. Albany, 1842. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records). description ends , 1:712).

1For these resolutions of 12 Nov., see Hancock to GW, 9–c.12 Nov. and note 4.

2On the draft Harrison originally wrote: “calls for every possible exertion on the part of the Several States. The dissolution of the present [army], is fast approaching—nay, the departure of a large p[r]oportion of It, is on the Eve of taking place. These facts are all known, but yet seem not to be sufficiently attended to.” He then struck out the text following “exertion” and wrote “to effect it” above the line.

3For Congress’s resolution of 4 Nov. giving GW this power, see Hancock to GW, 5 Nov., and 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 , 6:920–21.

4The draft reads: “across the North River over to Fort Lee.”

5The New York committee of safety on 21 Nov. also read the letter about the fall of Fort Washington that Tench Tilghman wrote Robert R. Livingston on 17 Nov. from Hackensack (see N.Y. Prov. Congress Journals description begins Journals of the Provincial Congress, Provincial Convention, Committee of Safety, and Council of Safety of the State of New-York, 1775–1776–1777. 2 vols. Albany, 1842. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records). description ends , 1:712). “I wish I had better news to communicate,” Tilghman writes, “but we suffered a heavy stroke yesterday in the loss of Fort Washington and its garrison, consisting of about two thousand men, who chiefly were made prisoners of war; what were not, fell in the action. The lines were bravely defended; but what could two thousand men do against General Howe’s whole Army, who poured in upon them from every quarter? The loss of the post is nothing compared to the loss of men and arms, and the damp it will strike upon the minds of many. We were in a fair way of finishing the campaign with credit to ourselves, and I think to the disgrace of Mr. Howe, and had the General [GW] followed his own opinion, the garrison would have been withdrawn immediately upon the enemy’s falling down from Dobbs’s Ferry. But General Greene was positive that our forces might at any time be drawn off under the guns of Fort Lee. Fatal experience has evinced the contrary. Whether the enemy will make any other move this season, is a matter of speculation. We are posting the Army on this side the river, along from Newark to Amboy, as places easy of communication with each other, and through which the enemy must pass, if Philadelphia or any place southward is their aim. Troops will be left at the passes leading from the North River into Jersey and New-York, to prevent supplies from going to the enemy” (Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 5th ser., 3:740).

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