George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Charles Lee, 3 March 1776

From Major General Charles Lee

N. York March the 3d 1776

Dr General

My destination is alterd—instead of going to Canada I am appointed to Command to the Southward—there has been a great promotion of Brig’r Generals—Armstrong[,] Thompson, Lewis, Moore[,] Stirling and Howe are the six—four are to serve under my orders viz. Armstrong Lewis Moore and Howe1—as I am the only General Officer on the Continent who can speak and think in French I confess I think it wou’d have been more prudent to have sent me to Canada—but I shall obey with alacrity and hope with success—Griffin has resign’d as He flatters himself He can do better in the Commercial line—I have in his room appointed one of the Sons of Lewis Morris to whom I was under a sort of engagement2 L’d Stirling will take the command until the arrival of Schyler his Lordship is active and distinct— in my last I gave you my plan of defence for this City and environs,3 but from want of Men Shall be oblig’d to leave it in a poor condition—a Regt of Associators are I am told, order’d from Philadelphia, I have likewise sent for a Battalion from the Jerseys—but on the other hand Wards and Waterbury’s Regiments will I suppose according to their laudable custom, leave the place the moment their time is expir’d, which is the twelfth of this month—I heartily pray that you may give Mr Howe a handsome salute on his leaving Boston—I am not yet inform’d who is to take the Command in Canada—no time, I am sure, is to be lost4—as I am order’d away immediately I must consign the affairs of N. York to Ld Stirling—I think He will acquit himself well—I have nothing material to trouble you with at present further than to assure You that I am and ever shall be, Dr General Yours most sincerely—

Charles Lee


1On 28 Feb. Congress resolved “that a letter be sent to General Lee desiring him not to set out for Canada, till he receive further orders from Congress,” and on 1 Mar. the delegates appointed him commander of the Continental forces in the southern department, which comprehended Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 4:175, 180–81; Hancock to Lee, 28 Feb. and 1 Mar. 1776, in Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 3:310–11, 317). On 1 Mar. Congress also elected John Armstrong, William Thompson, Andrew Lewis, James Moore, Lord Stirling, and Robert Howe brigadier generals. Armstrong was sent to South Carolina, Lewis and Howe to Virginia, and Moore to North Carolina (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 4:181).

2Lewis Morris, Jr. (1752–1824), son of Lewis Morris, Sr. (1726–1798), who was a New York delegate to Congress, served Lee as an aide-de-camp with the rank of major until Lee was captured by the British in December 1776. By May 1777 Morris was an aide-de-camp to John Sullivan, and on 8 Sept. 1778 Congress brevetted him a lieutenant colonel for his service with Sullivan during the Rhode Island campaign of that year. In June 1779 Nathanael Greene appointed Morris one of his aides-de-camp, and Morris remained with him for the rest of the war.

4On 6 Mar. Congress appointed Brig. Gen. John Thomas to command in Canada (ibid., 186).

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