George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Benjamin Lincoln, 25 April 1782

Newburgh Apl 25th 1782

My dear Sir,

Your private letter of the 2d Instt came to my hands the 20th by Doctr Craik—I am much indebted to you for the sentimts & calculations contained in it. You have however, if my information & estimation of the Enemys strength in New York is right, fallen a good deal short of their numbers—and if I may be allowed to ground an opinion upon present appearances, information and past experience—I should think you have greatly overrated our prospects. Consequently, that which seems to be a matter of no doubt in your Mind constitutes all the difficulty in mine, in pointing the operations of the present campaign towards New York.

I am persuaded the Enemy have not, at this time, less than 9000 regular Troops in New York and its Dependencies, including their establish Provencial Corps—and by a Report from the Commandant of that place to Lord George Germain in the winter of 1780 when they expected an Attack from us—it appears that of City Militia, Volunteer Companies, and some other small Corps which were named; exclusive of Marines, Sailors & Delancys Refugees, they had in Arms, regularly organized for the defence of the Town 3390 Men—These added to their regular force make a body of 12,390 independent of their Southern Army; which I estimate at 4000 more; making altogether 16,390 besides Sailors & Marines—But as an augmentation of the force in New York is, as yet, only problematical, I will suppose that the Enemy do not mean to withdraw their Southern Garrisons—and that no re-inforcements will arrive from Europe, which is the most favourable point of view the matter can be placed in—we still have (besides Sailors & Marines wch always will be more or less according to the number of Ships in the Harbor) 12,390 Men opposed to us, in works which are growing into consistency and strength every day.

You think, and I very readily concur with you in opinion, that the Besiegers ought to be at least three times the number of the Besieged. Upon European principles, if New York was regularly fortified, we ought to have as 5 or 6, to 1—But I will set it at the lowest; and without demanding any thing for Marines or Sailors, the number of Men required will be 37,170.

How to obtain them is the next enquiry. Our present strength by the last returns is

R & F R & F
2 Regts of N. Hampe 441 542
10 Ditto Massachuts 2786 3382
1 Regt Rhode Isld 219 341
5 Ditto Connectt 1275 1577
2 Ditto of N. York 809 912
2 Ditto N. Jersey 638 740
1 Ditto Hazens 279 384
1 Ditto Invalids 184 244
24 Ditto Infantry 6631 8122
1 Legionary Corps 230 250
2 Regts of Artillery 642 774
Marischausse supe 30 _____
Contenl force at this time 7533 9146

The column on the right, exhibits the total number of R. & File in the line of each State. The other supposing the Sick to keep the same Ratio—and it is not great—gives every Man that is to be expected from Regiments of the Strength that ours are.

Having shewn the actual strength of the line, I shall next give the information on which my opinion of Recruits for it is founded.

New Hampshire. A Letter from Colo. Dearborn dated March 10th says—the assembly at their last meeting had done nothing—that they were to meet again the 15th—that he fears it will be too late for them to do much—that there does not appear a disposition to great exertions—that the Men in power despair of raising either Men or Money "to any considerable amount" and therefore he fears, they will not take the Matter up with as much spirit as he could wish—& concludes, if men can be had, he is convinced Mr Morris will receive very little of the supplies, unless he will take it in specific articles.

Massachusetts-bay. Your knowledge of Matters in this State much exceeds mine, All the official information I have received from it has been through you—not one of my letters to the Governor has been acknowledged, nor do I know whether any of them ever got to hand, except the one which you speak of as having been laid before a Comee of the Assembly—One fact however is certain—and it is important—viz.—of 2994 Men returned to the State as its deficiency the Assembly voted 1500 only when it must be obvious to every considerate Mind, that these deficiencies encrease daily—and in the nature of things must continually do so, while deaths & desertions are incident to Armies.

Rhode Island. Altho’ Colo. Olney speaks of some difficulties, the State will, I expect, go near to compleat its Regiment with 9 Months Men (the term for which they are enlisted) to commence from the time of their passing Muster, by which means many of them will be discharged in November, and near all of them in December.

Connecticut. Instead of 1475 Men which by returns from the line of the State were dificient in Jany last, is about to give 700; five hundred of these Genl Huntington in a letter of the 10th Instt writes me he thinks will be got by the end of May—and two thirds of these will have to serve till the first of January, or for one year only.

New York. Will, I believe, go near to compleat her quota by Draft, to serve till the first of Jany next.

New Jersey. Has not the most distant prospect that I can see, of doing this—Her recruiting depends upon voluntary Enlistments at a small bounty—by which a Man now & then only is obtained.

Pensylvania, Delaware and Maryland, are pursuing the same mode of Jersey, and I dare venture to pronounce will have the same success—But as the Troops of these States are designated by a Resolve of Congress part of the Southern Army, I do not see how the Recruits of them can be brought into this estimate, unless by the evacuation of Charles Town our force to the Southward should move this way, in which case, and upon the principles here established, it ought to consist of 12,000 Men to counterpoise the Enemy’s 4000; but admitting they should join the Northern instead of the Southern Army, their numbers from everything I can hear do not exceed 600.

Under this state of matters and the experience of two years; particularly the last, when a favourite enterprize was clearly announced; and every argument which my invention could suggest was urged, in vain, to induce the States to compleat their Battalions I have not a single ray of hope that more than what follows will be obtained

Each State line & Corps then will stand thus.

R. & F.
N.Hampe prest Strength 441
Recruits 200 641
Massachusetts Bay 2786
Rects besides Artiy 1000 3786
Rhode Island prest 219
Recruits 250 469
Connecticut prest 1275
Rects (besides Horse) 500 1775
New York prest Str: 809
Rects besides Arty 200 1009
New Jersey 638
Desertrs will keep
pace with Recrg none 638
Hazens Regimt
no Rects expected 279
R. & F.
Invalid Regt none but from the line 184
Sheldons Legion 230
Rects from Connectt 70 300
Lambs Regt of Artilly 242
Rects from N. York 158 400
Cranes Artillery 374
Rects from Massts 100 474
Mareschausse Corps 30
Total, efficient Continl 9985.
Deduct for the Garrisons of
Wyoming 50
Verplanks point 50
Stony point 50
Dobbs’s Ferry 25.
West point (altho it shd be
covered by the Army) 750
at least, to secure the Wks _____ 925
Besides these, to compleat the
Investiture of New York, & deprive
the Garrison therein of Supplies, a
small flying Corps shd be in the
Jerseys _________ ________
Remains 9060
Add the French Troops in
Virga (wch at this time cannnot 4000
exceed for duty
Total Regts Troops 13,060
Wantg to treble the Enemys force 24 100
proof 37,160

It now remains to be determined.

Whether it is probable that 24100 Militia can be had if they are required.

2d—Whether a less, and what number, of men the Siege of New York may be undertaken with.

3d—Whether it is prudent to make a requisition of the Militia before the Succours from France (if any are coming) is announced to us—or wait this event—as each State from Delaware Eastward has been informed (by a circular letter of the of March) that it was highly probable the operations of the Campaign would make the Aid of Militia necessary—and requesting very urgently that the Executive might be vested with ample powers to call them out properly equipped for three Months, the time of Service to commence from the period at which they join the Army.

With respect to the first question I am clear that 24,100 Militia cannot be had.

In answer to the Second, if the Enemy continue divided, and we cannot (when all the Aids which are intended for us are disclosed) attempt something important, and more certain in another quarter, I should be disposed to undertake the Seige of New York with double the Enemys numbers; provided, a Naval Superiority comes early to our assistance, and will engage to co-operate during the Seige—because I would hope, that time and spirited exertions might effect (tho’ with more toil & hazard) what numbers alone are generally thought competent to.

On the third question I must observe, that as the States have been prepared for a call of their Militia, nothing further can well be done at this time, under our present State of uncertainty—Nor do I believe that any thing but expence would result from the measure—for while the Mass of the people, or the Executives of the States take upon themselves to judge of the proper time for drawing out their Militia, and will wait till the necessity of it is obvious to the common and uninformed understandings of the multitude, it is of little avail to make requisitions of this sort; and the mischief resulting from it, is as influential upon any Military operation (which may be in contemplation) as inability or want of inclination possibly can be.

Upon the whole, altho’ I have not made up my mind fully upon the impracticability of attacking New York, I am inclined to believe that without the Aid of 5 or 6000 French Troops in addition to those in Virginia we should find the Conquest of that place an arduous task—and that if the enemy concentre their force at it, it will be scarcely possible with such means as I expect to be possessed of. However as these thoughts are thrown together more for your animadversions upon them, than as expressions of my opinion, I shall be obliged to you for your remarks with the utmost freedom & candor; as it is from discussions of this sort the judgement is informed, and plans become properly matured.

I shall not in this letter, give any opinion respecting either of the other objects mentioned in yours. they are subordinate. and must all yield to New York, if means can be found to attempt that place upon a well grounded hope of succeeding—It is for this reason I wish to have every thing relative to it, well considered, before the Enterprise is either adopted, or rejected. With the most perfect esteem & regard I am—Dr Sir Yr Most Obedt & affecte Hble Servt

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