George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Henry Lee, 14 December 1791

To Henry Lee

Philadelphia, Dec. 14th 1791.

Dear Sir,

Unfortunate and melancholy as the event is, which has given rise to your communication of the [ ] instant, I sincerely thank you for it.1

Since the receipt of your letter official account of the defeat is come to hand, and is herewith enclosed.2 As the whole of it went to Congress, it was thought best to expunge no part of that which should be given to the public; otherwise the throwing away of Arms, and some other things would have been with-held.3 With sincere regard and affection, I am always Yours,

Go: Washington.


2The enclosure was undoubtedly a copy of Arthur St. Clair’s report to Henry Knox of 9 Nov., which GW had transmitted to Congress on 12 December.

3Lee replied to GW in an undated letter, which GW endorsed “Decembr 1791.” It reads: “I have the honor of your letter of the 13th acknowledging the receipt of mine enclosing to you Capt. Rogers information on the subject of our late misfortune in the west. To be told that I administer in any degree to your satisfaction is most grateful to my feelings because thus to do is & ever will be the object of my heart. I have read attentively the official account and think that the unfortunate event may be attributed cheifly to want of intelligence, tho to be sure the ground was highly disadvantageous to our troops as it afforded but little room to maneuvre, & did not admit of proper interval between the two lines, always necessary but more so with raw troops because they are easily confused & with difficulty rallied. This disadvantage seems to have been encreased by permitting the enemy to take their measures for attack during the night undisturbed, and I presume the generals ill health greatly contributed to the calamitous disaster. I cannot but apprehend that you will be obliged to prepare for war in the south west territory, as well as in the north west the next campaign. Capt. Rogers whom I saw yesterday, & whom I find to be very intelligent, has excited this apprehension in my breast. He is lately from Spanish America, was among the indians on his route and says that their conduct indicated strongly an intention to take up the tomahawk. From the tenor of his discourse, I was induced to request him to communicate in writing the information he had collected with all the precision in his power, as it might perhaps be useful to me. He has promised so to do—If I find it worthy of your attention I will do my self the pleasure of transmitting it; and will avail myself of every opportunity I may have of contributing to your intelligence in all matters which concern the important trust in your hands. Permit me to stipulate one condition, & that is, that you will write to me only when absolutely necessary, however frequent my communications may be—I do this because I know that your time is constantly occupied & therefore cannot be bestowed in compliance with formality, & because I hope you will consider me as your devoted friend, & not a correspondent to be treated with the requisites of form” (DLC:GW).

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