George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General James Mitchell Varnum, 12 November 1777

From Brigadier General James Mitchell Varnum

Woodberry [N.J.] 12th Novr Sunset, 1777


The Garrison holds out; tho’ the Enemy continue to batter with great Success upon the Works, but few Men are killed and wounded. The Troops are extremely fatigued. I shall send one Hundred fresh Troops this Night, &, all that I have tomorrow Night, if the Fort should remain defensible—The most fatigued will be taken from the Garrison. Colo. Smith will be unable to return to his Command for some Time; It is a misfortune, but, Colo. [Giles] Russell will command with Spirit, & Colo. Durkee will go in tomorrow Morning, should Colo. [Giles] Russell be much fatigued. Inclosed you have Major Fleury’s Opinion.1 I am anxious to hear from you—Have no particular Intelligence, save that Forty Sail of Vessells with Troops, on Saturday last,2 entered the Deleware—Should the Enemy continue their Cannonade the Island will be lost; however, the Garrison will continue ’till your Excellency shall order otherwise. I am, in due Submission, your Excellency’s most obdt humble Servt

J. M. Varnum

ALS, DLC:GW. Varnum apparently wrote this letter after receipt of GW’s 1:00 p.m. letter of this date but before receipt of GW’s 5:00 p.m. letter. Varnum’s signed pass on the cover reads: “The Express who bears this must pass unmolested.” The cover also is docketed in part “Answd 13th.”

1Varnum enclosed a letter that Fleury had written to him at “8 Oclock” on this date. The original enclosure has not been identified, but William B. Sprague’s nineteenth-century transcript of it reads: “In quality of Engineer in chief at Fort Mifflin I think it my duty to inform you of the present situation of the Fort.

“The three houses are so destroyed that they are useless in case of storm, that canon being dismounted. Some of our pallisades to the road side are spoiled; but we can mend them every night; in all the fort is certainly in a situation to be defended. If our men exhausted by watch, cold and want of sleep; we are not so much dispirited, but their Courage is so low, that I am afraid if the enemy attempt to storm us they will succeed. . . . I pray you Sir, to inform his Excellency of my opinion and the situation of the fort” (DLC:GW).

2The previous Saturday was 8 November.

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