George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major Henry Lee, Jr., 25 July 1779

To Major Henry Lee, Jr.

Head Qrs West point July 25 1779

Dr Sir,

I have received your two letters of the 21st1 and 22d—The intelligence you communicate is interesting and I am anxious to have the movements it mentions more clearly and certainly unfolded—You will spare no pains nor cost2 for this purpose. It is of great importance we should ascertain as early as possible the reality of the supposed embarkation—its extent and the course it takes in the first instance. & under whose command.3

I must also request you will endeavour to obtain the most precise ideas of the situation of affairs at Stoney Point, as well from your own observation as the intelligence of Spies and deserters of whom you will make very critical and minute enquiries—I wish to know upon what plan the enemy are now constructing their works—particularly whether they inclose them or not—what is the strength of the garrison, the corps that compose that strength the number and sizes of cannon who commands4—and the precautions made use of for the security of the post—These points are important and I shall be obliged to you to assist me with the most exact information respecting them all. ⟨I am Dr Sir Yr Most Obet, servt⟩

⟨Go: Washington⟩

P.S. I beg also that you will hire some intelligent Person to cross the River, & discover what Corps lye at Phillips & ⟨mile Square—what⟩5 others are at, and abt Kings ⟨Bridge & the works there⟩6 & what others are between ⟨that & the City of New York⟩7 & in the City.8

Df, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing with the exceptions of the postscript, which is in GW’s writing, and brief insertions, which are in the writing of Richard Kidder Meade, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The LS of this letter was sold by Charles Hamilton Galleries, Auction No. 160, 15 Dec. 1983, item no. 159. The catalog included a fragmentary facsimile showing the closing, GW’s signature, and portions of the postscript. This material from the LS, which except for GW’s signature is in the writing of Meade, is shown in the letter in angle brackets. For Meade’s insertions in the draft manuscript, see notes 2, 3, and 4.

1GW is referring to Lee’s second letter to him of 21 July.

2Meade inserted the previous two words in his own writing above the line on the draft manuscript.

3Meade wrote the previous four words on the draft manuscript. GW had ordered troops to Suffern, N.Y., on the basis of the initial intelligence from Lee, which subsequently proved false (see GW to Stirling, 24 and 28 July).

4Meade inserted the previous two words in his own writing above the line on the draft manuscript.

5GW wrote “Mile square—what” on the draft manuscript.

6GW wrote “bridge and the works there” on the draft manuscript.

7Meade followed GW’s writing on the draft manuscript exactly.

8GW pressed Maj. Benjamin Tallmadge for the same information in a letter of this date.

The diary entry for 28 July of a British officer stationed in New York City suggests that a consolidation of troops closer to the city was then under way. That entry reads: “The Troops encamp’d at Philipsburg, fell back within the Lines of Kingsbridge & took up their Ground on different Parts of New York Island, the Flank Companies of the Guards marched into the City” (Ritchie, “New York Diary,” description begins Carson I. A. Ritchie, ed. “A New York Diary [British army officer’s journal] of the Revolutionary War.” New-York Historical Society Quarterly 50 (1966): 221–80, 401–46. description ends 432). After reporting various movements and marching orders in his diary entries for 26–29 July, British officer Archibald Robertson wrote in his diary for 31 July: “at Day break all the Army march’d within and near to Kingsbridge, Light Troops with out the Redouts” (Lydenberg, Robertson Diaries, description begins Harry Miller Lydenberg, ed. Archibald Robertson, Lieutenant-General Royal Engineers: His Diaries and Sketches in America, 1762–1780. New York, 1930. description ends 201).

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