From Major General Charles Lee
New York Febr’y the 5th[-6] 1776
My Dr General
I arriv’d here yesterday but not without some difficulty—my disorder encreas’d rather than diminish’d, so that I was under the necessity of being carried in a litter a considerable part of the way. I consider it as a piece of the greatest good Fortune that the Congress have detach’d a Committee to this place—otherwise I shou’d have made a most ridiculous figure, besides bringing upon myself the enmity of the whole Province1—my hands were effectually tied up from taking any step necessary for the public service by the late resolve of the Congress putting every detachment of the Continental Forces under the Command of the Provincial Congress where such Detachment is—I shou’d apprise You that General Clinton arriv’d almost at the same instant with myself—He has brought no Troops with him and pledges his Honour that none are coming. He says it is merely a visit to his Friend Tryon—if it is really so it is the most whimsical piece of civility I ever heard of—He informs us that his intention is for N. Carolina where He expects five Regiments from England, that He only brought two company’s of Light Infantry from Boston this is certainly a droll way of proceeding—to communic⟨ate⟩ his full plan to the Enemy is too novel to be creditted2 The Congress Committee, a certain number of the Committee of Safety and Your humble Servt have had two co[n]ferences—the result of these Conferenc⟨es⟩ is such as will agreeably surprize You—it is in the first place agreed and justly that to fortify the Town against Shipping is impracticable—but We are to fortify lodgments in some commanding part of the City for two thoushand Men We are to erect inclos’d Batteries on both sides the Water near Hell Gate—which will answer the double purpose of securing the Town against Piracies through the Sound—and secure our communication with Long Island—now become a more capital point than ever—as it is determi⟨ned⟩ to form a strong fortify’d Camp of three thoushand Men in that Island immediately opposite to N. Yo⟨rk⟩—the pass in the Highlands is to be made as respectable as possible and guarded by a Battalion—in short I think the plan judicious and compleat3—The two brass Pieces and other articles will be sent down as your require.4
You have heard of the fate of the Cannon near King’s Bridge5—as I write with pain—You will excuse my abrupt conclusion—Yours Dr General
My love to Gates and the rest Female and Male.
ALS, DLC:GW. Although this letter is dated 5 Feb., the context indicates that the latter part of it must have been written on 6 February. See note 3.
1. The committee that Congress appointed to confer with Lee and the New York committee of safety about the defense of New York consisted of Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Lynch, and Andrew Allen.
3. These conferences were held on 5 and 6 February. After a long discussion on 5 Feb. “Genl. Lee informed the other gentlemen that Mr. [William] Smith, the engineer, had been out to view the ground about Horn’s Hook, and that he is now gone to Long island for the same purpose. Genl. Lee also proposed to go to-morrow to view Hellgate.” On 6 Feb. it was agreed “1st. That a secure fortified lodgment for the troops that now are or may hereafter be at the city of New-York, should be made at such place or places as MajorGenl. Lee, or such other Continental officer as may command here, shall think most proper for preventing the ministerial troops from taking possession of this city. That to the same end, as well as for the protection of Nassau island [Long Island]: 2nd. Such intrenched encampment, and such other works, should be made on Nassau island, and at such place or places on that island as Major-Genl. Lee, or such other Continental officer as may command at New-York, shall think necessary. And that for the purpose aforesaid: 3rd. Such works should be erected near Hellgate as will entirely secure that pass” (N.Y. Prov. Congress Journals description begins Journals of the Provincial Congress, Provincial Convention, Committee of Safety, and Council of Safety of the State of New-York, 1775–1776–1777. 2 vols. Albany, 1842. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records). description ends , 1:283–84). Hell Gate is a narrow channel of the East River.
5. Several Loyalists spiked the cannon at King’s Bridge at the northern tip of Manhattan Island on the night of 17 Jan. (N.Y Prov. Congress Journals description begins Journals of the Provincial Congress, Provincial Convention, Committee of Safety, and Council of Safety of the State of New-York, 1775–1776–1777. 2 vols. Albany, 1842. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records). description ends , 1:256, 262, 264, 266–67, 270–73).