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To George Washington from Major General Robert Howe, 8 March 1780

From Major General Robert Howe

Highlands [N.Y.] 8th of March 1780

Dear Sir

Your Excellency’s Favour of the 2d Inst: directed to Genl Heath, or Officer commandg at this Post I have just receiv’d1—the Contents of which shall be punctually observ’d.

Our Party on the Lines took an Ensign of Delancy’s, by Name Vincent I have ordered him to be reported to the Commissary of Prisoners, & sent him upon Parole to such Place as Col. Hay shall point out—A Copy of the Parole I herewith transmit.2

The Remissness in Duty (too prevalent here) & so absolutely necessary to be corrected, has induced me to arrest some Officers who are now under Trial by a General Court Martial; & I flatter myself the strict Discipline I began with, & am determined to keep up, is allready attended with good Effect.

I have ordered Reports from the Commissaries of ev’ry Sort in this Department—those Reports I have as yet receiv’d tho’3 not so favourable as I could wish, remove in some Degree the Fear of immediate Want; if the Roads will admit of bringing up the Provision, which I hope they soon will.

Application has been made to the Executive of ev’ry State near this, & all other Methods pursued to guard against a Scarcity, that Prudence & Law point out, & should it happen, it will not be for Want of my ev’ry Effort to prevent it.

I wish the Season wou’d admit of our having a Party of Horse on our Lines, to counteract those the Enemy have on theirs—they would be essentially serviceable.

I should be much obliged by any News Papers of late Date, that may have arriv’d at Head Quarters, when your Excellency is done with them. I am Dear Sir with the greatest Respect your Excellency’s most obedient Humble Serv⟨ant⟩

Robert Howe

P.S. A court martial orderd to try an Officer for absenting himself a considerable time from his Guard in time of Night, the officer was by the court unanimously found Guilty, and only sentenced to be Reprimanded As the punishment appeard to me by no means adequate to the Offence, and as strictness was requisite here, I publish’d an order of which I transmit Your Excellency a Copy, and which will I hope meet your approbation.4 I should not have troubled your Excellency upon this Occasion but that I hear, the Officer had Complained of its Severity, and therefore that in case you might hear of it from him, or any Body Else, that you might have the whole before you. I have the pl⟨e⟩asure to think indeed I know that the army here approve of the order & the whole of my Conduct R⟨e⟩specting it.5


2This enclosure has not been identified.

Elijah Vincent (born c.1760) of New York was an ensign in Col. James De Lancey’s Westchester County Refugees and Militia. After his exchange, Vincent became a second lieutenant in the provincial Corps of Guides and Pioneers in June 1781. In June 1782, his rank in the corps was converted to ensign.

3The last six words are in Howe’s writing.

4The enclosed undated document reads: “General Howe entertains the hig[h]est respect for the court, but both sincerity, and Duty exact of him to declare that in his opinion, a reprimand is by no means a punishment adequate to the offence.

“In the capacity the Ensign was acting, he was one of the confidential Guardians of the safety, life, Liberty and Honour of the Army, The Trust was Sacred, & ought not to have been trifled with—The least negligence in the officer of a Guard, may be attended with fatal consequences, and should be treated with the most rigid Justice.

“The Ensign pleads that the crime of leaving Guards has been often committed by other officers, to recriminate however does not Justify, so that it would have been happy for this officer, if h⟨e⟩ had taken those Characters as warnings, rather than Examples—But has this offence been frequent in the army? if it has, have not officers of the day observed it? and if they have, why have they not reported it? the practice however (if it has been one) must not be repeated, it is unsoldierly, and Dangerous to Service.

“The Genl Laments that occasion should call forth these sentiments, But since it does, Duty which with him preced’s every other consideration, made it obligatory upon him, to express himself thus forcebly—For which he doubts not, to receive the approbation of his Brother Officers” (DLC:GW; filed at the end of the March 1780 documents).

5The postscript is in Howe’s writing.

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