George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General William Smallwood, 25 November 1777

From Brigadier General William Smallwood

Camp [Whitemarsh, Pa.] Novemr 25th 1777


I have revolved in my Mind the Subject of your Requisition last Night, and placed it in every Point of View, and must confess I am much embarrassed, I see the Propriety and Necessity of an Attack, I view with Pain the pressing Expectations of the Public, the Reputation of the Army at Stake, the depression of our Money, the difficulty & hazard of the proposed Attact, and the Misfortunes & I may add the almost inevitable destruction which must ensue upon a Defeat; and upon due Reflection let it suffice to say I am against an Attact on the Enemys Lines, from an Impression that our Troops are not equal to it, unless there was a moral certainty of throwing in the Parties proposed, down the Delaware & across the Schuylkil, to Alarm and make a Diversion on the Flanks & in their Rear, but I think this Event wou’d be doubtful & uncertain, as well as extremely hazardous for the Delaware Party, & might in general subject the Army to too great a Sacrifice upon such a Contingency.

I shou’d therefore think it more eligible to manœuvre, and endeavor to draw Genl Howe out of his Lines to an Engagement, wch I shou’d judge is both Practicable, and probable. I have the Honor to be with sincere Regard, Your Exellencys Most Obedt Hble Sert

W: Smallwood

ALS, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

At the council of general officers held on the evening of 24 Nov., GW had solicited Smallwood’s opinion on whether or not the Continental army should attack Philadelphia (see the source note to John Cadwalader’s Plan for Attacking Philadelphia, c.24 Nov.).

Index Entries