George Washington Papers

Council of War, 2 May 1777

Council of War

[Basking Ridge, N.J., 2 May 1777]

At a Council of General Officers held at Baskenridge the 2d day of May 1777. Present His Excellency the Commander in Chief[,] Majors Generl Greene[,] Ld Stirling[,] Stephen[,] Lincoln[,] Brigadrs Maxwell[,] Knox.

His Excellency, the Commander in Chief, stated to the Council, the situation & strength of the Army under his Immediate command at the several posts in Jersey, laying before them Returns of the Whole, and propounded the following Questions.

Question Will a General Attack upon the Enemy in Brunswic and at the Neighbouring posts be adviseable?1

Answd Unanimously, That the situation of our Force, either in point of Number or discipline, will not justifie the measure.

Questn—Will it be adviseable to make a partial Attack?

Answr. It will upon Bergen, if it can be attempted with a prospect of Success. As to the other Outposts, though an Attack upon them might Succeed, so far as to force the Enemy from them; et it would be with certain loss on our side, as they could always retreat from the Works to the main body of their Army, when it should be necessary, and could dispossess us again of the posts, whenever they should think proper.

Genl Stephen. Bonam Town or piscatawa may be attacked with a prospect of success without any great loss—The measure was held inexpedient by the rest of the Council for the reasons above.

Rob: H: Harrison. Secy

DS, in Harrison’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1Greene’s undated plan for attacking New Brunswick, which GW docketed “Apl 1777,” apparently was prepared a short time before this council of war met. Greene proposed to attack New Brunswick with three divisions of 1,000 men each commanded respectively by himself, Putnam, and Lincoln, while Maxwell with 500 men feigned attacks on Perth Amboy and Bonhamtown and Stephen with 900 men made feints against Piscataway and Raritan Landing. “To make the Attack upon the present Plan,” Greene writes, “the chance is equal—had we a reserve Corps of 2,000 I think it would be certainly attended with success—The Troops are now young & want to be better diciplind—to attack to advantage—if the first onset is successful the Victory will be easy—If We defeat the Enemy it will ruin their measures for this Campaign—if they defeat us it being the grand division of the Army—it will greatly discourage the Opperations—Our loss upon a defeat cannot be great as the Troops may be easily drawn off into the Country & such as are scatterd will get off without any great loss—Upon the whole I am willing to lead a division to the Attack & to risque my own Reputation upon the consequences—but I am not willing to recommend it very warmly if it be contradicted by the voice of the other Generals” (DLC:GW).

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