From Brigadier General Thomas Mifflin
Camp at Mt Washington 2d July 1776
My dear General
I find the Works well advanced but not in a State of Defence—The Teems allotted to them have been taken off—some of them sent to Town for Materials & there detaind—others necessarily employd in ha[u]ling up the powder (which is now stord in the best place I could find) and provisions from the Landing.
From the Colonels Reports the Mens Arms are in a most alarming Situation—Col. Magaw has not more than 125 in his Regimt fit for Service—Col. Shee about 300 includg all the Carbines which they reced lately by your Order. If the Enemy pay us a Visit we will do our best and endeavour to make up in Zeal what we want in Appointment. Should sufficient Reinforcemts arrive at New York may we not expect a Share? You are best acquainted with the Importance of this post my dear General and I flatter myself will put it into our power to do something more than mere Defensive Work within our Lines.
I think the Enemy may divert our Attention to the Heights above Kings Bridge—if so, is it expected that We can detach a party to oppose them—I shall be happy in your Orders how to act if a Landing should be attempted above or below us at the same Time that we may have Reason to beleive our present post to be one of their Objects. Were the Works in good Order & the Men well equipped I could easily determine those points but circumstanced as we are I do not see how we can permit even a small party to leave the Environs of this Camp without exposing it to imminent danger; & yet I might be tempted.
I propose to exercise, with the Artille[r]y if the Works will admit of it, two Companies who are not armd—Our principal Buisiness within the Works must be with artillery.
We have many Arms which might soon be put in Order if Col. Moylan will favor us with four Armorers & some Tools—Captain Bacon promised it several Days past but still neglects us.1 I am my dear General Your Obt hle St & Frd
Tho. Mifflin B.G.
ALS, DLC:GW; copy, NHi: Joseph Reed Papers.
Mount Washington, the highest point on Manhattan Island, was a 230-foot-high ridge overlooking the Hudson River on the upper west side of the island between present-day 181st and 186th streets. The fort that Robert Magaw and John Shee’s Pennsylvania regiments had been working on since 20 June stood on the south end of the ridge. Soon named Fort Washington, this work was a crude five-sided earthen structure without ditching, palisades, barracks, casemates, or a source of water other than the river. In conjunction with Fort Lee across the Hudson in New Jersey and naval obstructions in the river, Fort Washington was supposed to prevent British warships from running up the Hudson, but it was never able to do so effectively despite the efforts of Mifflin and others (see Mifflin to GW, 14 July). Fort Washington and its outworks remained the last American-held position on Manhattan Island after the British forced GW’s main army to retreat north to White Plains. GW hesitated to order the evacuation of the fort, and on 16 Nov. 1776 it was captured by the British, resulting in the loss of almost three thousand men and many valuable stores, a devastating blow to the American war effort.
1. Richard Cary wrote Mifflin later this day: “I am orderd by his Excellency General Washington to return you for answer ... that it is not in his power to supply you with any arms, as there is a great want of them in the Camp here, which he supposes you are not insensible of—There is a number of Rifle Guns which are retaind for the Recruits, and which the General will lend you for the present, if there are any Men in Cols. Magaw’s or Shee’s Regts who know how to use them, otherwise he thinks they will be sent to no purpose—Colo. Moylan has this day dispatched some Armourers & Tools agreeable to your direction—You may depend on receiving a reinforcement as soon as any considerable number of Militia arrives; as yet so few have reached this that none can possibly be spared—The General has not the least expectation that in your present situation you will be able to do more than defend your own Lines, tho he is fully persuaded your most vigorous Exertions will be manifested in every respect—He also much approves of your intentions to exercise with the Artillery those men who are not Armed” (DLC:GW).