George Washington Papers

From George Washington to a Secret Committee of the New York Convention, 19 July 1776

To a Secret Committee of the New York Convention

Head Quarters New York July 19. 1776


I am favourd with yours of the 17th Inst.—My unacquaintedness with Hudson’s River and with every other circumstance necessary to form a judgment of the Mode of defending it, will incapacitate me from giving you the Assistance and Advice you politely ask—I must intirely refer it to your own Judgment & Skill only assuring you that it will give me great pleasure if any thing effectual can be done, & that I will most readily give all the Assistance in my Power—I had some intentions of throwing Obstructions in the Passage at Mount Washington, but so many Difficulties & Obstacles have retarded it that I much fear my being able to compleat it—however it is a matter so purely confidential if it can be effected, that I must desire the most profound Secrecy may be observed on the Subject1—I heartily wish you success in the Measures you may adopt, & am with much truth & Esteem Gentn Your most Obedt Hble Servt

Go: W.

LB, in George Lewis’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The LB is addressed “to Robt R. Livingston Esq. & others Members of the Secret Committee of the Convention of the State of New York.”

1William Duer wrote two members of the secret committee, John Jay and Robert R. Livingston, from White Plains, N.Y., on 21 July: “I am just arived at this place from N. York where I have conversed with Genl Washington on the purport of the Letter from the secret Committee.

“Gens. Putnam and Mifflin have made an exact survey of the River opposite Mount Washington and find that the depth in no part exceeds 7 fathoms—the width however of the Channel (which is from 3 to 7 Fs.) is not much less than 1800 Yds, the shallow part of the River running in an oblique direction—G. W. expresses himself extremely anxious about the Obstruction of that Channel, and means are daily used for executing that purpose—It is impossible to procure Vessels enough at New York, so that the Measure must be delayed till such time as more Vessels can be brought thro’ the [Long Island] sound from Connecticutt however I am not without apprehensions that this resource will be cut off, as I understand that some of the Enemys Vessels have saild out of the [Sandy] Hook, with an intention (probably) of cutting off our Communication with the sound.

“It is however an Object of so much Importance that no difficulties however great ought to deter us from our Attempts to carry it into execution; if we succeed the designs of the Enemy in this Campaign are effectualy baffled, if we fail we cannot be in a more lamentable situation than we are.

“Exclusive of the great advantage we should reap in Obstructing the Channel so far to the southward it is I fear the only place we can depend upon shallowing to the southward of the high Lands whilst the Men of Warr are in the River, for if proper Batteries are erected near the Water at Mount Washington, and on the opposite side Mounted with Guns of 18. 24 & 32 Pounders, it will not be practicable for any Vessels to be so near as to prevent our Working under the cover of these Works—I have strongly urg’d Genl Washington to send Genl Mifflin some heavier Metal and tho he seems half Inclined this Necessary opperation has not yet taken place.

“The Genl is anxious to have either of You (as members of the secret Committee) to be with him in Town, and has Authorised me to make the Offer to you of his House during Your Residence, let me entreat one of You immediately to come down, and not to quit Gen. Washington ’till such Time as this Measure on which our safety depends is effected—There is such a languor, and procrastination in our Military Opperations in that City, and the true Object of them appears to me so much Mistaken, that I am confident either of your presences in order to press on the Obstruction of that Channel will be highly Usefull. . . . this design of Obstructing the Channel near Mifflins is covered under the pretext of preparing Vessels for Obstructing the Channel in the East River, it will therefore be advisable that your conversation should give a couloring to this Matter” (NNgWHM).

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