George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Charles Lee, 30 May–18 June 1778

To Major General Charles Lee

[Valley Forge] 30 May–18 June 1778]


Poors, Varnums, & Huntingtons Brigades are to March in one division under your Command to the North River.

The Quarter Master General will give you the rout, Incampments, & halting days to which you will conform as strictly as possible to prevent interfering with other Troops and that I may know precisely your situation every day.

Leave as few sick & lame on the road as possible such as are absolutely incapable of Marching with you are to be committed to the care of proper Officers with directions to follow as fast as their condition will allow.

Be strict in your discipline—suffer no rambling—keep the Men in their Ranks & the Officers with their divisions—avoid pressing Horses &ca as much as possible and punish severely every officer or Soldier who shall presume to press without proper authority—prohibit the burning of Fences—in a word you are to protect the persons & property of the Inhabitants from every kind of Insult & abuse.

Begin your Marches at four oclock in the Morning at latest that they may be over before the heat of the day, & that the Soldiers may have time to Cook, refresh, & prepare for the ensuing day. Given at Head Quarters this 30th May 1778

G. Washington

The foregoing Instructions may serve you for Genl directions, but circumstances having varied since they were written you are to halt on the first strong ground after passing the Delaware at Coryells ferry till further orders unless you should receive authentic intelligence that the enemy have proceeded by a direct rout to South Amboy (or still lower)—In this case you will continue your March to the No. River agreeably to former orders & by the rout already given you—If my memory does not deceive me there is an advantageous spot of ground at the Ferry to the right of the road leading from the water.


ADfS, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Somebody other than GW dated the postscript “18th June 1778.”

This letter may never have been sent. Although GW expected the British to evacuate Philadelphia, he had no way of knowing what route they would take out of the city, whether they would proceed by land or sea, or where their final destination might be. If by sea, he intended to march to Newburgh, N.Y., on the Hudson River and there await further developments. That contingency plan is described in the first part of this letter. He added the postscript as an emendation when the British actually began marching through New Jersey toward New York. Yet the British decision to leave Philadelphia by land did not narrow GW’s options very much, for there were several routes they might take across New Jersey. The two most obvious routes were northeast via Haddonfield, Mount Holly, Allentown, Cranbury, and New Brunswick to Staten Island; and east-northeast via Mount Holly, Allentown, and Monmouth Court House to Sandy Hook, New Jersey. For GW’s further thoughts on how he could deploy his army in the event of a land evacuation, see Orders for March from Valley Forge, 17 June.

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