George Washington Papers

From George Washington to George Clinton, 3 December 1777

To George Clinton

Head Qrs White Marsh [Pa.] Decemb. 3d 1777.

D. Sir

The importance of the North River in the present contest and the necessity of defending It, are Subjects so well understood and so familiar to you, that it is needless for me to enlarge upon them. I therefore only mean to mention, that no exertions can be too great to render it secure against any future attempts of the Enemy, and that the present opportunity should be improved to effect it, as far as it may be practicable. There cannot remain a doubt, but that the Enemy, as soon as the Spring opens, or the condition of the River after the Winter’s frost will permit, will attempt to gain possession of it, to prosecute their favourite plans of ruin & of devastation. Under these Ideas, I must beg, my Dr Sir, that you will turn your attention to this infinitely important Object, and, by your advice and assistance, promote and forward as much as possible such Works & Obstructions, as shall be essential to render it perfectly secure. I wish to be favoured with your sentiments upon the subject, and that you will give them with freedom & without reserve as to the present management, or of any difficulties that may have occurred to prevent you from interfering.1 Genl Gates was directed by Congress, to turn his views to this matter, but from some proceedings that have just come to hand, he may be employed in the Board of War, if it shall be his choice.2 Should this be the case, nothing would be more pleasing to me, and I am convinced more advancive of the Interest of the States, than for you to take the cheif direction and superintendance of this business; and I shall be happy, if the Affairs of Government will permit you:3 If they will, you may rest assured no aid in my power to afford you shall be witheld, and there are no Impediments on the score of delicacy or superior command, that shall not be removed. I am Dr Sir with great regard Yr Most Obedt servant

Go: Washington

LS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, PHi: Gratz Collection; Df, DLC:GW; two Varick transcripts, DLC:GW.

2For Congress’s resolutions on the subject of defending the Hudson River, passed on 5 Nov., see Laurens to GW, that date, and note 5. For Congress’s resolution of 27 Nov. appointing Maj. Gen. Horatio Gates to the Board of War, see Henry Laurens to GW, 30 November.

3Col. William Malcom wrote Clinton on 10 Dec. that he had been “asked several questions by the general [GW] ab’t your quarter, & told pretty plainly how it was—he appears anxiously concerned ab’t it—ask’d me if you woud take the command there—I said I believed you woud if put in a Situation equal to the charge—a Committee of Congress is now w’h the General on matters of moment” (Hastings, Clinton Papers description begins Hugh Hastings and J. A. Holden, eds. Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York, 1777–1795, 1801–1804. 10 vols. 1899–1914. Reprint. New York, 1973. description ends , 2:568–69).

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