George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Gordon, 10 January 1785

From William Gordon

Jamaica Plain [Mass.] Jany 10. 1785

My dear Sir

In arranging the intelligence obtained from the inspection of your papers, I found that an extract from the private letters Vol. 1st dated Oct. 22. 1779, which alluded to one of the most important events of the late war, was not so complete as I wish. It relates to the capture of Fort Washington, which I apprehend ought now to be placed in its true light, as the public cannot suffer from its being done. The extract I have made, begins—When I came to Fort Lee, & found no measures towards an evacuation in consequence of the order aforementioned.1 I have omitted taking the order aforementioned, which is material. If it will not trespass too much upon your Excellency’s time, Shall reckon it a great favour to have that order transmitted with the place from whence, & the date when given.2 With renewed & affectionate respects to Self & Family I remain with great esteem Your Excellency’s sincere Friend & very humble Servant

William Gordon


1William Gordon spent several weeks at Mount Vernon in early summer going through GW’s Revolutionary War papers in preparation of his history of the Revolution. The letter from GW to Joseph Reed to which Gordon is referring is the letter of 22 Aug. 1779 and not the one dated 22 Oct. 1779. In that letter of 22 Aug., which is printed in Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed. The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745–1799. 39 vols. Washington, D.C., 1931–44. description ends 16:150–54, GW attempts to explain, and to defend, the decisions he made in the days leading up to the surrender of Fort Washington on the Hudson in November 1776 and to the evacuation of Fort Lee across the river a few days later. See also his response to Gordon, 8 Mar. 1785.

2In his letter to Reed of 22 Aug. 1779, GW refers to his order to Gen. Nathanael Greene of 8 Nov. 1776 in these terms: “. . . a non-compliance in General Greene with an order sent him from White-plains before I marched for the Western-side of Hudsons River to withdraw the Artillery Stores, &ca from the Fort; allowing him however some latitude for the exercise of his own Judgment as he was upon the spot & could decide better from appearances and circumstances than I, the propriety of a total evacuation.” GW enclosed a copy of his orders to Greene in his letter to Gordon of 8 Mar. 1785.

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