George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Charles Lee, 1 December 1776

To Major General Charles Lee

Brunswic [N.J.] Decr 1st 1776

Dear Sir

The Enemy are advanci[n]g & have got as far as Woodbridge and Amboy, and from information not to be doubted mean to push to Philadelphia. The force I have with me, is infinitely inferior in number and such as cannot give or promise the least successfull opposition. It is greatly reduced by the departure of the Maryland flying Camp men and Sundry other causes. I must entreat you to hasten your march as much as possible or your arrival may be too late to answer any valuable purpose. your Route nor the place to Join me I cannot particularize;1 in these Instances you must be governd by circumstances and the intelligence you receive—Let the former be secure—I hope to meet a considerable reinforcemt of Pensylva. Associators; it is said they seem spirited upon this occasion. I am Dr Sir Yrs.

Df, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

Stryker, Battles of Trenton and Princeton description begins William S. Stryker. The Battles of Trenton and Princeton. 1898. Reprint. Spartanburg, S.C., 1967. description ends , includes on pp. 326–27 a letter from GW to Charles Lee of 30 Nov. that is of doubtful authenticity. Stryker describes the document as an “intercepted letter” that “was found among the German records at Marburg, Germany.” No manuscript copy of that letter has been located, and no reference to it can be found in contemporary documents. The letter differs markedly from other letters that GW wrote during this period in prose style and in opinion about the importance of attempting to oppose the British advance into New Jersey (see particularly GW to Hancock, 5 December).

The letter, as printed by Stryker, reads:

“Brunswick [N.J.], 30th of November, 1776.

My Dear General:

“The movements of the enemy are, since I wrote you from Newark, of such a nature as things stand at present, sincerely to be wished for. I have feared that they would take Newark, Elizabeth Town and Amboy for their winter quarters in order to undertake from these places early in the spring an attack on Philadelphia and at the same time having a favourable season ahead that they would make a diversion on the Delaware river with their fleet. The advantages they have gained over us in the past have made them so proud and sure of success that they are determined to go to Philadelphia this winter. I have positive information that this is a fact and because the term of service of the light troops of Jersey and Maryland are ended they anticipate the weakness of our army. Should they now really risk this undertaking then there is a great probability that they will pay dearly for it for I shall continue to retreat before them so as to lull them into security. I am with the greatest respect, my dear General, your obedient servant

Go. Washington.”

1On the draft manuscript Harrison first wrote “undertake to point out,” and then he struck out those words and wrote “particularize” above the line.

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