George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Hancock, 11 November 1776

To John Hancock

Pecks Kills [N.Y.] Novr 11th 1776


I have only time to acknowledge the honor of your Letter of the 5th Instt and Its Several Inclosures, and to inform you, that agreable to the Resolves of Congress I shall use every measure in my power that the moving & present confused State of the Army will admit of, for to appoint Officers for recruiting. You will have been advised before this of the arrival of Commissioners from the Massachusets.1 Others have come from Connecticut, but from the present appearance of things, we seem but little, if any nearer levying an Army.2 I had anticipated the Resolve respecting the Militia, by writing to the Eastern States & to the Jersey by the advice of my Genl Officers, and from a consciousness of the necessity of getting in a Number of Men if possible, to keep up the appearance of an Army.3 How my applications will succeed, the event must determine. I have little or no reason to expect, that the Militia now here will remain a day longer than the Time they first engaged for. I have recommended their Stay & requested it in Genl Orders—Genl Lincoln & the Massachusets Commissrs, are using their Interest with those from that State, but as far as I can judge, we cannot rely on their Staying.4

I left White Plains about 11 OClock Yesterday all peace then. The Enemy appeared to be preparing for their expedition to Jersey according to every Information. What their designs are, or Whether their present conduct is not a feint, I can not determine. the Maryland & Virginia Troops under Lord Stirling have crossed the River as have part of those from the Jersey, the remainder are now embarking.5 The Troops judged necessary to Secure the Several Posts through the Highlands have also got up. I am going to examine the Passes, and direct such Works as may appear necessary, after which and making the best disposition I can of things in this Quarter, I intend to proceed to Jersey which I expect to do to morrow.6

The Assemblies of Massachusets & Connecticut to induce their Men more readily to engage in the Service, have voted an Advance pay of Twenty Shillings ⅌ Month in addition to that allowed by the Congress to Privates. It may perhaps be the means of their levying the Quotas exacted from them sooner than they could otherwise be raised, but I am of Opinion7 a more fatal & mistaken policy could not have entered their Councils, or One more detrimental to the Genl cause. The Influence of the Vote will become Continental and materially affect the other States in making up their Levies. If they could do It, I am certain when the Troops come to act together, that Jealousy, impatience & mutiny would necessarily arise. a different pay cannot exist in the same Army. the reasons are obvious & experience has proved their force in the case of the Eastern & southern Troops last Spring. Sensible of this, and of the pernicious consequences that would inevitably result from the advance, I have prevented the Commissrs from proceeding or publishing their Terms till they could obtain the sense of Congress upon the Subject and remonstrated against It in a Letter to Govr Trumbull.8 I am not singular in Opinion, I have the concurrence of all the General Officers of it’s fatal Tendency.

I congratulate you & Congress upon the News from Tyconderoga & that Genl Carlton & his Army have been obliged to return to Canada without attempting any thing. I have the Honor to be with great respect Sir Yr Most Obedt Servt

Go: Washington

LS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; Df, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Congress read this letter on 15 Nov. (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 , 6:951).

2The draft reads “a New Army.”

3See GW to the Massachusetts General Court, 6 Nov., to William Livingston, 7 Nov., and Robert Hanson Harrison to Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., 7 Nov., which is quoted in Trumbull to GW, 13 Nov., n.2. No letters to Rhode Island or New Hampshire on this subject have been identified for this period.

4GW requested the militia reinforcements to prolong their stay with the army in his general orders of 5 November. The Massachusetts committee of arrangement wrote Tristram Dalton, president of the state’s house of representatives, on 16 Nov.: “With all the rhetorick we are masters of have earnestly invited the Militia to tarry till the first of March, but could not prevail upon them. They are so determined to return that the General could not obtain the express consent of one half of them to tarry even four days. Yet it is likely the greater part will continue that short time” (Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 5th ser., 3:711–12).

5Stirling’s brigade, which consisted of Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Delaware troops, crossed the Hudson on 9–10 Nov. (see Stirling to GW, 10 November). Gen. Rezin Beall’s brigade of Maryland flying camp troops apparently crossed the river on 10 Nov., and Col. Nathaniel Heard’s brigade of New Jersey militia levies apparently crossed it on 10–11 Nov. (see Thomas Mifflin to Hancock, 10 Nov., in Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 5th ser., 3:634).

6Heath says in his memoirs that on this date he, Stirling, James and George Clinton, Mifflin, and others accompanied GW “in taking a view of Fort Montgomery, and the other works up the [Hudson] river” and “they went as far up the river as Constitution Island, which is opposite to West Point, the latter of which was not then taken possession of; but the glance of the eye at it, without going on shore, evinced that this post was not to be neglected. There was a small work and a blockhouse on Constitution Island. Fort Montgomery was in considerable forwardness” (Wilson, Heath’s Memoirs description begins Rufus Rockwell Wilson, ed. Heath’s Memoirs of the American War. 1798. Reprint. New York, 1904. description ends , 95).

7The draft reads: “I am convinced.”

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