George Washington Papers

From George Washington to William Livingston, 18 June 1780

Head Qrs Springfield June 18. 1780

Dr Sir

I have received advice which appears to be direct, that the Legislature of this State has determined on a draft to serve for the campaign under Their own officers, instead of being incorporated with their Continental batalions. This move, if adopted will be attended with so many inconveniencies, if followed by the States in general will be so absolutely pernicious to all the prospects of the Campaign—that I cannot forbear taking the liberty to send Brigadier General Knox to represent on my part the ill consequences of the measure, and the superior advantages of the plan recommended in preference. I entreat Your Excellency to procure him the honor of a conference with the Legislature for this purpose—The crisis is so delicate and important—the honor and interest of these states so essentially depend on a judicious and vigorous exertion of our resources at this juncture—that I cannot but manifest my anxiety when I see any measures in agitation that threaten the disappointment of our hopes, and take every step in my power to prevent their being carried into execution. In military questions the Officers of the Army have a right to flatter themselves their country will place some confidence in their experience and judgment and it is the policy of every wise nation to do it—I cannot doubt that on reconsideration the zeal and wisdom which have distinguished the council of this state will embrace what the true interest of America on this occasion demands. I have the honor to be with every sentiment of respect & esteem Your Excellency’s Most Obedient Servant

G. W.

P.S. Since writing the above—I have received a Letter from Genl Forman, dated at 11 OClock last night, of which the following is an Extract.

"Yesterday afternoon three Frigates arrived within Sandy Hook. In the Evening a fourth Ship of War run in. The Tory report of this day, is, that Admiral Arbuthnot was on board.

This afternoon a Large Fleet appeared standing for Sandy Hook. The Air my intelligencer says, was too foggy for good observation; but that before Sun down he counted Sixty five sail of Ships of War and Transports distinctly—and saw a number more in the Offing. That immediately they run within the Hook as they arrived."

From the great probability of the event, besides the unequivocal manner in which it is related, I have no doubt that a Fleet has arrived—and that it is Sir Henry Clinton from the Southward. The information I had received from New York before was, that he was daily expected. It is probable from this event and the consequent measures which will be taken on our part—that I shall not have it in my power to send General Knox to wait on the Legislature as I intended. I will therefore take the liberty to give my Opinion without reserve, that the Legislature cannot so essentially promote the operations of the Campaign as by complying literally with the requisition of the Committee of Congress for filling their battallions without a moments loss of time to their established complement of Five hundred & four rank and file. The advantages which will be derived from the Drafts, if they are not incorporated in the regular Regiments of the State, will be but comparatively small to what they would otherwise be; and the Regiments themselves without they are made respectable in this way, will contribute but very little to our strength. Their present condition is absolutely opposed to all military arrangements. From the arrival of Sir Clinton, with a powerful additional force to one already superior to what we have, we must in all human probability, be precipitated into the most embarrassing circumstances. The exertions of the States cannot be too instant & immediate to give us succour; & the succour they do give should be disposed of in a way that will make it the most beneficial. Besides the Drafts being of infinitely less advantage, if formed into New Corps—the measure would greatly increase our expence a point of immense consequence and which wherever possible should be avoided, from the appointments of sundry Officers.

DLC: Papers of George Washington.

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