George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Charles Lee, 19 November 1776

From Major General Charles Lee

Camp [North Castle, N.Y.]1 Novr the 19th 1776

Dr General

The recommendation of General Green which you transmited to me threw the Officers to whom I communicated it into so great a flame of discontent that I ventur’d notwithstanding your orders to hesitate—They accus’d him of partiallity to his connexions and Townsmen to the prejudice of men of manifestly superior merit[.] indeed it appears from the concurrent testimony of unbias’d Persons that some of the subjects He recommended were wretched—in short I was so stunn’d with their clamers that I delay’d till the arrival of the Committee for which I ought to ask your pardon but at the same time think the delay has been salutary2—my objections to moving from our present Post—are, as I observed before, that it wold give us the air of being frighten’d—it wou’d expose a fine fertile Country to their ravages—and I must add that We are as secure as We cou’d be in any position whatever[.] We are pretty well disencumber’d of our impedimenta which I propose depositing in or about Crumb Pond—which (tho I confess I have not reconnoitred the place) from its situation must be full as safe and is much more centrical than Peek’s Kill—if on further examination it has any material disadvantages We can easily move from thence3—as to ourselves (light as We are) sevral retreats present themselves—In short if We keep a good look out We are in no danger but I must entreat Your Excellency to enjoin the Officers posted at Fort Lee to give us the quickest intelligence if they observe any embarkations of Troops in the North River—our Scouts are of late grown more vigilant and make Prisoners—the Militia (according to their laudable custom) woud not stay a moment beyond their usual time4—Oh General why wou’d you be over-perswaded by Men of inferior judgment to your own? It was a cursed affair5—yours most affectionately

Charles Lee

P.S. The returns of the Soldiers of the different Regiments now in the hands of the Enemy (according to the mode you require) are not yet made out, but will soon and shall be sent.

ALS, DLC:GW. The cover is addressed: “To His Excellency General Washington Hackensack.” Robert Hanson Harrison docketed the letter: “Genl Lee 19th Novr No Answr necessary.”

1For the location of Lee’s headquarters at North Castle on this date, see John Skey Eustace to John Sullivan, this date, in Lee Papers description begins [Charles Lee]. The Lee Papers. 4 vols. New York, 1872-75. In Collections of the New-York Historical Society, vols. 4–7. description ends , 2:286–87.

2Lee is referring to Greene’s list of Rhode Island officers recommended for new commissions, a copy of which was enclosed in GW’s letter to Lee of 14 November.

3Crom Pond (Crompond), which means “crooked lake” in Dutch, was about seven miles east of Peekskill. Mohansic Lake, which lies a short distance to the west, was part of Crom Pond at the time of the Revolutionary War.

4Sgt. John Smith, who was with part of Col. Christopher Lippitt’s Rhode Island regiment in the vicinity of North Castle, says in his diary entry for 18 Nov.: “the Militia of the State of Boston whose time was Expirid are a going to Set out for home to Day” (Rau, “Smith’s Diary,” description begins Louise Rau, ed. “Sergeant John Smith’s Diary of 1776.” Mississippi Valley Historical Review 20 (1933-34): 247–70. description ends 261). Benjamin Trumbull, chaplain of Col. William Douglas’s regiment of Connecticut militia levies, says in his journal entry, however, that the Massachusetts militia began marching homeward on 17 Nov. (see “Trumbull Journal,” description begins Benjamin Trumbull. “Journal of the Campaign at New York, 1776–7.” Collections of the Connecticut Historical Society 7 (1899): 175–218. description ends 210).

5Lee obviously is referring to the loss of Fort Washington, news of which arrived at his camp on 17 Nov. (see Rau, “Smith’s Diary,” description begins Louise Rau, ed. “Sergeant John Smith’s Diary of 1776.” Mississippi Valley Historical Review 20 (1933-34): 247–70. description ends 261).

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