George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Henry Laurens, 17 March 1778

To Henry Laurens

Head Quartrs Valley Forge, 17th March 1778


On saturday1 I had the Honor to receive your favor of the 10th with the Resolutions alluded to.

Inclosed I take the liberty to transmit an Extract of a Letter just received from Genl Parsons.2 This, as well as the Letter which I inclosed you yesterday from Governor Clinton, will shew the confusion in the management of affairs on the North River.3 I informed Congress then, that I had sent General Mcdougal to take the Chief command there comprehending the Forts, which appeared to me the only effectual means for curing all disorders & promoting the Public Service. To remove all impediments, it were to be wished that Congress would invest him with every necessary power for carrying into execution the objects of his command; and it might be well, if they were to extend to any future commanding Officer, as it would prevent those difficulties, which have heretofore arisen from their having been considered as merely personal.4

I am more and more in sentiment with Governor Clinton, on the propriety and absolute necessity of drawing the Troops from the northward to reinforce and carry on the Works in the Highlands. From the information I have from Colo. Radiere, who has just come from thence, I find that the intended defences are far less advanced than I had any idea of. According to him little or nothing is yet done, tho’ I have repeatedly and constantly urged the prosecution of them with all possible industry. The inclosed Copies of my Letters to Genl Putnam will shew, that I have uniformly pressed the closest attention to the business, tho’ it might be inferred from Genl Parson’s Letter, that there had been some inconsistency in my orders.5 There remains but a little time to do a great deal in, and I fear that no exertions now will be sufficient to place things in that Quarter, on the secure and respectable footing we could wish. However we should do the most we can, & if the works cannot be as compl[e]at as they ought, the Troops will be there, and a reliance must be had in their bravery to repel any attempt that may be formed against them. I have the Honor to be With great respect Sir, Your most Obet hum. Servt

Go: Washington

LS, in Richard Kidder Meade’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; Df, copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; copy, ScHi: Henry Laurens Papers; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. GW signed the cover of the LS. Congress read this letter on 21 Mar. (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 , 10:275).

1The previous Saturday was 14 March.

3See GW’s first letter to Laurens of 16 Mar., and note 1 to that document.

4On 21 Mar., Congress resolved, “That the command of all the troops which now are, or shall be collected and stationed in the State of New York, and in the whole northern department, be vested in one general officer”; “That Governor Clinton be requested to yield to the said general officer all the aid in his power in erecting and making the fortifications and obstructions” necessary for defense; that the officer should be “directed forthwith to draw together, at the Highlands, such of the troops therein as he shall deem expedient” for the defense of the Hudson River; that the officer be “authorized to ask of the government of the State of New York such numbers of their militia as he shall judge necessary, to serve at Albany, for the security of the arsenal and magazines there,” in order to free Continental troops for work on the Highlands fortifications; and that the officer be given power to engage officers and men “for manning the gun boats and floating batteries built or building on the North River” (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 , 10:275–76). Later the same day Congress confirmed the powers that GW had granted to Maj. Gen. Alexander McDougall (ibid., 278).

5GW enclosed copies of his letters to Maj. Gen. Israel Putnam of 2 and 27 Dec. 1777. He had also urged Putnam’s attention to the Hudson River works in letters of 15 and 25 Jan. and 26 Feb. 1778.

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