To Samuel Washington
Camp near the Falls at Trenton
Decr 18th 1776.
In the number of Letters which necessity compels me to write, the recollection of any particular one is destroyed, but I think my last to you was from Hackinsack about the 20th of Novr.1
Since that period, and a little before our affairs took2 an adverse turn but not more than was to be expected from the unfortunate measures which had been adopted for the establishment of our Army.
The Retreat of the Enemys Army from the White Plains led me to think that they would turn their thoughts to the Jerseys, if no further, and induced me to cross the North River with some of the Troops in order if possible to oppose them—I expected to have met at least 5000 Men of the Flying Camp and Militia; instead of wch I found less than one half and no disposition in the Inhabitants to afford the least aid—This being perfectly well understood by the Enemy3 they threw over a large body of Troops which pushed us from place to place till we were obliged to cross the Delaware (into Pensylvania)4 with less than 3,000 Men fit for duty owing to the Dissolution of our Force by short Inlistments—the Enemys Numbers by the best Accts exceeding Ten, and by others 12,000 Men.5
Before I removed to the Southside of this River I had all the Boats and other vessels brot over or destroyed from Philadelphia upwards for 70 Miles, and by guarding the different6 Fords have, as yet, baffled all their attempts to cross but from some late movements of theirs I am left in doubt whether they are Inclining to Winter Quarters7 or making a feint to throw us off our Guard.
Since I came on this side I have been reinforced8 by about 2000 of the City Militia, and understand that some of the Country Militia (from the back Counties) are on their way—but we are at present9 in a very disaffected part of the Provence, and between you and me I think our Affairs are in a very bad way10—not so much from the Apprehension of Genl Howes Army as from the defection of New York, New Jersey, and Pensylvania—In short the conduct of the Jersey, has been most Infamous—Instead of turning out to defend their Country and affording aid to our Army they are making their Submissions as fast as they can—If they11 had given us any Support we might have made a stand at Hackensack, and after that at Brunswick, but the few Militia that were in Arms disbanded themselves or slunk off in such a manner upon the approach of danger as to leave us quite unsupported, & to make the best shift we could without them.12
I have no doubt but that General Howe will still make an13 attempt upon Philadelphia this Winter—I see nothing to oppose him in a fortnight from this time, as the term14 of all the Troops except those of Virginia, (reduced almost to nothing) and Smallwoods Regiment from Maryland (in the same condition) will expire in that time.15 In a word my dear Sir, if every nerve is not straind to recruit the New Army with all possible Expedition I think the game is pretty near up—owing in great Measure to the insiduous Arts of the Enemy and disaffection of the Colonies beforementioned, but principally to the accursed policy of Short Inlistments and depending too much on Militia,16 the Evil consequences of which were foretold 15 Months ago with a spirit almost prophetick.
Before this reaches you, you will no doubt have heard of the Captivity of Genl Lee—this is an additional Misfortune, and the more vexatious as it was the effect of folly & Imprudence (without a view to answer any good) that he was taken—going three Miles out of his own Camp (for the sake of a little better lodging) & within 20 of the Enemy a rascally Tory gave information in the Night and a party of light Horse in the Morning seiz’d and carried him off with every mark of triumph and Indignity.17
You, at a distance, can f⟨orm⟩ no Idea of the perplexity of my Situa⟨tion. No⟩ Man I be⟨li⟩eve ever had a greater c⟨hoice of⟩ difficulties & less the means of extri⟨cating⟩ himself than I have—However und⟨er a⟩ full perswation of the justice of our Ca⟨use⟩ I cannot but think the prospect will bri⟨ghten⟩ allthough for wise purposes it is, at pres⟨ent⟩ hid under a cloud.18
My love & sincere regards attend My Sister & the Family. My Compliments also to our friends at Fairfield &ca19 and with every Sentiment of friendship as well as love I am Dr Sir Yr Affecte Brothr
ALS, PHi: Washington Manuscripts. GW addressed the cover: “To Colo. Saml Washington In Berkeley Cty Virginia.” Samuel Washington endorsed the letter: “Recd Jany 13th 1777.” A small part of the text of the next-to-last paragraph has been torn off the manuscript. The mutilated words in that paragraph are supplied within angle brackets where possible from the nearly identical letter that GW wrote to John Augustine Washington on this date (see note 18).
The ADfS of GW’s letter to John Augustine Washington of this date is in DLC:GW. That letter and this letter both convey essentially the same information and opinions, differing in wording at only a few places in their texts. GW may have based this letter to Samuel Washington on the draft of his letter to John Augustine Washington. Significant differences in the wording of the draft are given in the notes to this document.
1. This letter has not been found. The draft of GW’s letter to John Augustine Washington reads: “In the number of Letters I write, the recollection of any particular one is destroyed, but I think my last to you was by Colo. Woodford from Hackensack.” That letter has not been identified.
2. The draft of GW’s letter to John Augustine Washington reads: “have taken.”
3. The draft of GW’s letter to John Augustine Washington reads: “This being perfectly well known to the Enemy.”
4. This parenthetical phrase is omitted in the draft of GW’s letter to John Augustine Washington.
5. The draft of GW’s letter to John Augustine Washington reads: “the Enemy’s numbers, from the best Accts exceeding Ten and by some 12,000 Men.”
6. This word is not included in the draft of GW’s letter to John Augustine Washington.
7. The draft of GW’s letter to John Augustine Washington reads: “whether they are moving off for Winter Quarters.”
8. The draft of GW’s letter to John Augustine Washington reads: “I have been join’d.”
9. The words “at present” are not included in the draft of GW’s letter to John Augustine Washington.
10. The draft of GW’s letter to John Augustine Washington reads: “in a very bad situation.”
11. The draft of GW’s letter to John Augustine Washington reads: “If they the Jerseys.”
12. The draft of GW’s letter to John Augustine Washington reads: “disbanded themselves & left the poor remains of our Army to make the best we could of it.”
13. On the manuscript of the ALS to Samuel Washington, GW first wrote “another” and then stuck out “other.”
14. The draft of GW’s letter to John Augustine Washington reads: “to oppose him a fortnight hence, as the time.”
15. The draft of GW’s letter to John Augustine Washington reads: “and Smallwood’s Regiment of Maryland, (equally as bad) will expire in less than that time.”
16. The draft of GW’s letter to John Augustine Washington reads: “and placing too great a dependence on the Militia.”
17. The draft of GW’s letter to John Augustine Washington reads: “as it was by his own folly & Imprudence (and without a view to answer any good) he was taken, going three Miles out of his own Camp & within 20 of the Enemy to lodge, a rascally Tory rid in the Night to give notice of it to the Enemy who sent a party of light Horse that seized and carried him with every mark of triumph and indignity.”
18. The draft of GW’s letter to John Augustine Washington reads: “You can form no Idea of the perplexity of my Situation. No Man, I believe, ever had a greater choice of difficulties & less means to exticate himself from them. However under a full persuasion of the justice of our Cause I cannot entertain an Idea that it will finally sink tho’ it may remain for some time under a Cloud.”
19. The draft of GW’s letter to John Augustine Washington reads: “and Compliments to all enquiring friends.”