George Washington Papers
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To George Washington from Brigadier General William Smallwood, 2 September 1778

From Brigadier General William Smallwood

Camp White Plains 2d September 1778

Dear Sir

I am clearly of opinion no movements or Opperations in this army ought to be undertaken, ’till we can with more Certainty ascertain the designs of the Enemy, which from their present Manœuvres, and the aspect before us, is difficult to limit, with any degree of precission, so as to render our movements secure, or to hold up any great prospect of success; they must have had two objects in view in going to Rhode Island, either (as Circumstances might require) to intercept General Sullivan and his army during the absence of the Count de Estaing, or to relieve and bring off their Garrison, should Sullivan have debarked on the main, and there should be a probability of the Count’s speedy return to his Station, in either instance they have it evidently in their power to evade our pursuit, or relief, from the Superior Advantages they derive from their fleet, and their future opperations must be Governed, and must be more or less inlarged or confined in their prospect of the Arrival of a Superior Naval force, which in the event must determine our Conduct, the impediment and risk which our Army must encounter (from Particular Circumstances which your Excellency can be no stranger to) in going to Rhode Island or New York, in the present instance to me appear if not insuperable at least to promise but a slender prospect of any Material Success, because in either instance our Endeavours after much fatigue and risk, may be frustrated, and rendered abhortive, by a slight exertion of theirs, and in the first might open a prospect up Hudsons river which might be very flattering to them; and no less distructive to us, by cutting off our resources for a time from the Southward, and from their Superior Land and Naval force, and the Advantages derived from the latter, might with great facility by a sudden and rapid Movement, endanger any body of forces which we could spare to Garrison the Highlands, before we could come to their relief, admitting our Supplies to be ample in the Interim, which to me is doubtfull, and in the latter Instance, by making an attempt on New York, our Supplies might not only be intercepted, but the force now at Rhode Island getting in our rear, might render the situation of our forces Critical & Alarming; I am therefore for waiting the event a few days when Circumstances may enable us to act with more precission. I have the Honor to be with great regard Your Excellencys most Obdt Hble Servt

W. Smallwood

LS, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. This is Smallwood’s reply to the questions posed by GW at a council of war on the evening of 1 September.

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