George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Meshech Weare, 21 August 1781


Head Quarters Kings Ferry 21st-24 Augst 1781


I feel myself unhappy in being obliged to inform you, that the Circumstances in which I find myself at this late Period, have induced me to make an Alteration of the main Object which was at first adopted, & has hitherto been held in View, for the Operations of this Campaign. It gives me pain to say that the Delay in the several States to comply with my Requisitions of the 24th of May last, on which in a great Measure depended the Hopes of our Success in that Attempt, has been one great & operative Reason to lead to this Alteration. Other Circumstances, it is true, have had their Weight in this Determination—& it may, in the Course of Events, prove happy to the States, that this Deviation from our main Design, has been adopted.

The Fleet of the Count de Graasse, with a Body of French Troops on Board, will make its first Appearance in the Cheasapeak—which, should the Time of the Fleets Arrival prove favorable, and should the Enemy under Lord Cornwallis hold their present Position in Virginia, will give us the fairest Opportunity to reduce the whole British Force in the South, & to ruin their boasted Expectations in that Quarter: to effect this desirable Object, it has been judged expedient, taking into Consideration our own present Circumstances, with the Situation of the Enemy in New York & at the Southward, to abandon the Seige of the former, and to march a Body of Troops, consisting of a Detatchment from the American Army, with the whole of the French Troops, immediately to Virginia. With this Detatchment which will be very considerable, I have determined to march myself—The American Troops are already on the West Side of the Hudson, & the French Army will arrive at Kings Ferry this Day—When the whole are crossed, our March will be continued with as much Dispatch as Circumstances will admit.

The American Army which will remain in this Department, excepting two light Companys & some few Detatchments, consists of the two New Hampshire Regiments—Ten of Massachusetts & five of Connecticut Infantry—with Sheldons Legion, Cranes Artillery—the State Troops & Militia, which, with proper Exertions of the States, will it is expected, be sufficient to hold the Enemy in Check at New York, & prevent their Ravages on the Frontiers. The Command, during my Absence is given to Major General Heath, who will have the Honor to communicate with the States, on every Occasion which may require their Attention.

As the Enemys Force in New York has been for some Time past very considerable, & it is reported with a good Degree of Certainty, that they have lately received a very respectable Reinforcement of German Recruits from Europe, it will be necessary still to send forward a great Part, if not the whole of the Militia requested from your State, in the same Manner as ’tho no Alteration had taken Place in our Measures. you will therefore continue to send on at least 400 Men from your State to the Orders of Genl Heath, with as much Dispatch as possible, unless you should be informed from him that this Number need not to be compleated.

On this Occasion, I cannot omit to repeat to you my Opinion, of the absolute Importance of filling your Continental Battalions to their compleat Numbers, for the War, or three Years. Not only our past Experience for a Course of Years, but our present Scituation should strongly inforce the Necessity of this Measure. Every Campaign teaches us the increasing Difficulty & Expence of procuring short-termed Levies, and their decreasing Utility in the Field. The large Reinforcements which the Enemy have this Campaign sent to America, strongly indicates their Expectations of the Continuance of the War—should that be the Case, the best Way to meet them is certainly with a permanent Force. but, should the War be drawing towards a Close, a permanent & respectable Army will give us the happiest Prospects of a favorable Peace. In every View, a permanent Army, should be the great Object of the States to obtain, as they regard sound Policy, Prudence or Economy. I have the Honor to be With very great Regard & Respect Sir Your most Obedient and humble Servant

Go: Washington


24th Augst 1781

By your Letter of 13th inst. which is just come to hand, it seems that mine of the 15th June last, has not reach’d you; from that Letter, had it come to your hand, you wou’d have been acquainted with the time of the March of your Militia to Camp, and with my Request for an additional number of 250 Men, requested as your Quota, to supply the Deficiency from the State of Pennsilvania—their Militia being order’d to go Southward.


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