George Washington Papers

Council of War, 16 October 1776

Council of War

[16 October 1776]

At a Council of War held at the Quarters of General Lee 16th Oct. 1776.

Present. His Excelly General Washington[,] Major Generals Lee[,] Puttnam[,] Heath[,] Spencer[,] Sullivan[,] Brigadi[e]r Generals Ld Stirling[,] Mifflin[,] McDougal[,] Parsons[,] Nixon[,] Wadsworth[,] Scott[,] Fellows[,] Clinton[,] Lincoln[,] Colo. Knox, Commandr of Artilly.

The General read sundry Letters from the Convention & particular Members &c. of the Turbulence of the disaffected in the upper Parts of this State—and also sundry Accounts of Deserters shewing the Enemy’s Intentions to surround us.1

After much Consideration & Debate the following Question was stated—Whether it having appeared that the Obstructions in the North River have proved insufficient & that the Enemy’s whole Force is now in our Rear at Frog Point, it is now deemed possible in our present Situation to prevent the Enemy cutting off the Communication with the Country & compelling us to fight them at all Disadvantages or surrender Prisoners at Discretion.

Agreed with but one dissenting Voice, viz. Genl Clinton that it is not possible to prevent the Communication & that one of the Consequences mentioned in the Question must certainly follow.

Agreed that Fort Washington be retained as long as possible.

D, in Joseph Reed’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

Heath writes in his memoirs that on this date “two works were discovered on Throg’s Neck, nearly finished. The General Officers of the army rode to reconnoitre the ground at Pell’s Neck, &c. and it was determined that the position of the American army should be immediately changed; the left flank to be extended more northerly, to prevent its being turned by the British” (Wilson, Heath’s Memoirs description begins Rufus Rockwell Wilson, ed. Heath’s Memoirs of the American War. 1798. Reprint. New York, 1904. description ends , 81–82).

Tench Tilghman wrote William Duer on this date: “I have yours of the 14th, which is principally taken up with pointing out the necessity of securing a proper place of retreat beyond the Highlands, should any accident befall the army. I cannot speak positively, but I am inclined to think the expediency of such a measure is in deliberation before a council of war held this day at King’s Bridge. I know some of our ablest heads are clearly for it” (Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 5th ser., 2:1077).

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