George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Nathanael Greene, 15 November 1776

From Major General Nathanael Greene

Fort Lee [N.J.] 4 oClock [15 November 1776]

Dear Sir

Inclosd you have a letter from Col. Magaw1—the contents will require your Excellencys Attention[.] I have directed Col. Magaw to defend the place until he hears from me[.] I have order’d General Hands Brigade to hasten on—I shall go to the Island soon. I am dear Sir your Excell. Obedient Servant

N. Greene

ALS, DLC:GW. Although this letter is not dated, it is docketed in GW’s writing: “Majr General Greene respg Fort Washingn 15th Novr 1776.” The cover of the letter is addressed in Greene’s writing: “To His Excellency General Washington Head Quarters.” GW received this letter at Hackensack. For his return to Fort Lee this evening, see GW to Hancock, 16 Nov. and note 5.

1Col. Robert Magaw wrote Greene on this date from Fort Washington: “A flag of truce came out just now from Kingsbridge, the Adjutant Genl [James Paterson] was at the head of it—I sent down Col. Swoope [Michael Swope]—The Adjutant Genl would hardly give two hours for an Alternative between surrendering at discretion or every man being put to the sword. He waits for an answer—I shall send a proper one—You’ll I dare say do what is best—We are determined to defend the post or die” (DLC:GW).

The copy of Magaw’s reply to Paterson of this date in DLC:GW reads: “If I rightly understand the purport of your message from Gen: Howe communicated to Col. Swoope ‘this post is to be immediately surrendered or the garrison put to the sword[’]—I rather think it a mistake than a settled resolution in General Howe to act a part so unworthy himself and the British nation—But give me leave to assure his excellency that actuated by the most glorious cause that mankind ever fought in, I am determined to defend this post to the very last extremity.”

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