George Washington Papers

From George Washington to George Clinton, 15 October 1777

To George Clinton

Head Quarters Philada County 15th October 1777

Dear Sir

I was this day honored with yours of the 9th containing a full account of the Storm of Forts Montgomery and Clinton. Genl Putnam had given me information of the loss two days before, but not in so full and ample a manner.1 It is to be regretted that so brave a resistance did not meet with a suitable reward. You have however the satisfaction of knowing that every thing was done that could possibly be, by a handful against a far superior force. This I am Convinced was the case. This Affair might have been attended with fatal consequences, had not there been a most providential intervention in favor of Genl Gates’s Arms on the 7th instant, but I am fully of opinion that Sr Henry Clinton will not advance much further up the River upon hearing of Burgoine’s Defeat and Retreat. Nothing but absolute necessity could have induced me to have withdrawn any further part of the troops allotted for the defence of the posts up the North River, but such was the reduced state of our continental Regiments after the Battle of Brandywine, and such the slouth and difficulty of procuring reinforcements of Militia from the Southward, that without the Troops from Peekskill we should scarcely have been able to have kept the Feild against General Howe. I had the greatest hopes that General Putnam would have drawn in as many Connecticut Militia as would have replaced the Continental Troops, and I make no doubt but he did all in his Power to obtain them in time. I am sorry that you were under the necessity of destroying the Frigates, the only consolation is, that if we had not done it ourselves the Enemy would either have done it for us or have carried them down for their own use—Since the Battle of Germantown upon the 4th instant the two Armies have remained in a manner quiet. The Enemy have made several attempts to remove the obstructions in the Delaware, but hitherto without effect. They are now making preparations to raise Batteries in the Rear of Fort Mifflin which commands the uppermost Chevaux de Frize. If we can maintain that post and one opposite upon the Jersey Shore, I am in hopes our Ships, Gallies and floating Batteries will be able to keep their Stations and repel any force that can be brought by water directly in front—I most earnestly expect further News from the Northward, which I hope will bring us accounts of the total ruin of Burgoine’s Army.

It is not unlikely, that One of Sr Henry Clintons objects will be to destroy the Boats & small craft in the North River. Should this be the case & he succeed I think it will be adviseable for you to set a number of Workmen to building Flat Bottom Boats at some secure places within three or four Miles of the Water, from which they may be easily hauled. They are so exceedingly useful and so frequently wanted, that I think the business cannot in such case be too soon begun or carried on with too much expedition. I have written to Genl putnam upon the same Subject.2 I am Dr Sir &c.

Go: W.

Df, in Tench Tilghman’s and Robert Hanson Harrison’s writings, DLC:GW; two Varick transcripts, DLC:GW. On the draft manuscript Tilghman wrote the first paragraph, and Harrison wrote the second paragraph and the closing.

A postscript to this letter, which does not appear on the draft or the Varick transcripts, is included in Fitzpatrick, Writings description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed. The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745–1799. 39 vols. Washington, D.C., 1931–44. description ends , 9:374. Fitzpatrick says that “the P.S. is from the Toner Transcripts in the Library of Congress.” It reads: “P.S. By sundry concuring accounts of persons out of Philadelphia and from Deserters, the Enemy’s loss in the action of the 4th was very considerable. The lowest say it was 1500 killed and wounded, others 2000 and some as high as 2500. Perhaps the two last are exaggerated, but there are many reasons to believe that the first cannot much exceed the mark. For they were compleatly surprized and drove in great disorder for a long time and for a considerable distance at every point of attack. Had it not been for the extreme fogginess of the day which prevented our several Columns discovering each other’s movements and from improving the advantages which they separately gained, in all probability the day would have been a most fortunate one. But owing to that circumstance they got confused and retreated at a moment when there was every appearance of victory in our favor. The Enemy lost some valuable officers, among the slain Genl. Agnew and it is said another Genl. officer was dangerously wounded. We were not without on our part Brigadr Nash was wounded by a Cannon Ball and is since dead. We had also several other officers of inferior rank wounded and some killed. This crude, undigested account I dont mean for publication. I hope all will yet end well.”

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