George Washington Papers

From George Washington to William Livingston, 2 August 1781

Head Quarters Dobbs’s Ferry 2d Augt 1781.


I regret being obliged to inform Your Excellency, that I find myself, at this late period, very little stronger than I was when the Army first moved out of their Quarters. Of the Militia which were required of the State of New Jersey, and which were to have joined me by the 15th of July, none have come in. I am informed that the first party which rendezvoused at Morris Town returned [home] for want of subsistence. Of the Levies for the Continental Battalions only three Men have joined in the Course of last Month The reinforcements from the other States have been very inconsiderable.

I leave your Excellency to judge of the delicate and embarrassed situation in which I stand at this moment. Unable to advance with prudence beyond my prisent position, while perhaps in the general opinion my force is equal to the commencement of operations against New York, my conduct must appear, if not blameable, highly mysterious at least. Our Allies, with whom a junction has been formed upwards of three Weeks, and who were made to expect, from the engagements which I entered into with them at Weathersfeild in May last, a very considerable augmentation of our force by this time, instead of seeing a prospect of advancing, must conjecture, upon good Grounds, that the Campaign will waste fruitlessly away. I shall just rema[rk] that it will be no small degree of [   ] to our Enemies, and will have a very [   ] influence upon our Friends in Europe [   ] they find such a failure of resource, or such a want of energy to draw it out, that our boasted and expensive preparations end only in idle parade.

I cannot yet but persuade myself, and I do not discontinue to encourage our Allies with a hope that our force will still be sufficient to carry our intended operation into effect, or if we cannot fully accomplish that, to oblige the Enemy to withdraw part of their force from the southward to support New York, and which, as I informed your Excellency in my letter of the 27th of May, was part of our plan.

You must be sensible, Sir, that the fulfilment of my engagements must depend upon the degree of Vigor with which the Executives of the several States exercise the powers with which they have been vested, and enforce the laws lately passed for filling up and supplying the Army. In full confidence that the means which have been voted will be obtained, I shall continue my preparations: But I must take the liberty of informing you, that it is essentially necessary I should be made acquainted, immediately on the receipt of this, with the number of Continental Levies and Militia which have been forwarded, and what are the prospects of obtaining the remainder.

I will further add, that it will be equally necessary to see that the specific requisitions of provisions are regularly complied with. I have the honor to be with great Respect and Esteem Your Excellency’s Most obt and hble servt

Go: Washington

By a letter just recd from Colo. seely I find that only 157 Militia had collected at Morris Town, and that the account of them returning home was premature—I have orderd them on to the Army.

NN: W. Livingston Papers.

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