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To George Washington from Major General Benjamin Lincoln, 17 March 1778

From Major General Benjamin Lincoln

Hingham [Mass.] March 17th 1778

My Dear General

Would not an early attempt upon the city of New-York by part of the Continental Troops, and the Eastern Militia be attended with great probability of success? Indeed if there was but a small prospect of our carrying the city it appears to me, that our collecting a respectable body of men in its vicinity would be attended with many good effects; as thereby we should probably divide the enemy, put them on the defensive & oblige them to govern their movements by ours—We should be in a good situation, to guard the North River, and even give succour to the northern parts of the State of New-York, should Britain be so infatuated as to attempt a second invasion thereof—We should there receive an easy supply of provisions and forage—We should draw the enemy from an open champaign country, to one strong by nature, less favourable to their designs, and more friendly to ours—We should have our rear open to a strong and plentiful country, filled with men friendly to the common cause—We should bring back the war to a climate, more healthy at least for the New-England people, than a southern one; for which reason the militia could with greater ease be drawn forth—We should avoid those inconveniences, which necessarily arise from the want of provisions and forage, when our whole force is collected in one camp; and have an opportunity of fighting the enemy in detachment, which is of importance to us, as a considerable proportion of our men will be undisciplined.

I hope these suggestions do not convey the most distant idea of a measure injurious to the Southern States. Nothing can be farther removed from my mind, than the thought, that the cause can be supported but by our most vigorous, united and confidential exertions. We are all embarked on the same bottom, and shall be saved or lost together. Should the union be broken and we find ourselves sinking, in vain will the Southern States lay the blame of the sad event upon the Northern, or the Northern recriminate upon the Southern.

I am happy to inform your Excellency, that my wounded leg daily acquires strength, & there is no present appearance of any further exfoliations. It is a little shorter than the other; however the defect I hope to supply by a corked shoe, & that it will not be long before I shall be able to walk.1 I am my dear General with sentiments of regard and esteem your affectionate humble Servant

B. Lincoln

ALS, DLC:GW; ADfS, MHi: Benjamin Lincoln Papers.

On the draft, which was dated 11 Mar., Lincoln wrote and then struck out two paragraphs at the beginning of the letter: “From the commencement of the present war America has generally considered herself as acting on the defensive, has suffered the enemy to take their own measures and their movements have directed hers.

“To oblige an enemy to act counter to his wishes and intentions is undoubtedly an object of importance, as it is often productive of the most happy effects. When we take a view of the objects, which Britain appears to have had and still hath in contemplation, for to effect a conquest of the United States; the principle of which has been the possessing herself of their Capitals, which she, in some measure, has effected and must, upon her ideas of matters, at all hazards attempt to hold such possessions, we are led to consider, whether it is not in our power to adopt, and execute a plan, which may counteract her designs & check her mad career.”

1Lincoln, who had been wounded in the fighting at Saratoga in October 1777, did not rejoin the army until 6 Aug. 1778.

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