George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., 10 August 1779

To Jonathan Trumbull, Sr.

Head Qrs West point August 10th 1779


I have had the Honor to receive Your Excellency’s Favor of the 2d Instant. As circumstances indicated an intention on the part of the Enemy to pursue their ravages—I approve the conduct of Captain Frothingham in offering his services while it appeared they might be material. With respect to the Six Field pieces left at Middletown—which your Excellency seems desirous of retaining while there may be a probability of their being wanted in the state—it will be necessary for You to apply to Congress upon the subject, as it is a point in which I have no authority to act.1 As to Officers and Men to manage the pieces, it is utterly out [of] my power to supply them. We are deficient in both—very much so in Matrosses—and are obliged upon every occasion where we use Artillery to make large Drafts from the Regiments of Infantry.

I assure You Sir, it will always give me the most sensible satisfaction to afford protection to All and each of the States against the Attacks and depredations of the Enemy—and it is a circumstance of great concern when ever I find myself unable to do it—either in the manner I could wish or in which it is requested. Unfortunately I am in this predicament at present—and I cannot2 detach General Glover’s Brigade either to New London or farther from this post than it now is.3 Our condition—the condition of the Enemy—their expectation of a reinforcement, and other considerations render it impracticable. I had received a Copy of Mr Lee’s & Mr Johnson’s Letters before—and I should hope the depredations the Enemy have already committed will satisfy the information.4 But I confess at the sametime I expect nothing either from their justice or their lenity; but from the measures you have pursued for the defence of New London, I should hope it will be secure against their ravages—as an attempt to destroy it, though it might possibly succeed, would in all probability be attended with the loss of a good Many men.

With respect to a Field piece for Colo. Mead—I would take the liberty to suggest, that Horseneck appears to me, to be a most ineligible place for Artillery—and that any employed there—without a great body of Troops to cover it, would be eminently exposed and it’s loss almost certain in case of a surprize or a rapid movement in force by the Enemy. I would not myself send Field pieces there—with any light detachments—I might have occasion to station in that Quarter.5 I have the Honor to be with sentiments of the most perfect respect & esteem Yr Excellys Most Obedt sert


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

1Harrison wrote this sentence on the draft manuscript in place of the following text, which he marked out: “I shall also consent to your Excellency’s retaining the Field pieces for the present if you deem it essential.”

2At this point on the draft, the words “with any degree of propriety” are lined out.

3In July, GW had stationed Brig. Gen. John Glover’s brigade in the vicinity of Ridgefield, Conn. (see GW to William Heath, 19 July, and Trumbull to GW, 2 Aug., n.6).

4GW is referring to letters that Congress had received from Arthur Lee and Joshua Johnson, American representatives in France, warning of British plans to carry out raids on the coast of Connecticut and up the Connecticut River. John Jay had sent these letters to GW and Trumbull in July (see Jay to GW, 13 July; see also Smith, Letters of Delegates, description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends 13:208). For the raids on coastal Connecticut towns conducted by British major general William Tryon and commodore George Collier in early July, see GW to Trumbull, 7 July, source note.

5GW may have considered sending Trumbull an expendable artillery piece. On 12 Aug., Harrison wrote to Brig. Gen. Henry Knox: “Governor Trumbull has applied to His Excellency for a Field piece to be attached to a Colo Mead’s Regiment which is raising, and to act about Horseneck. The General is unwilling to refuse the Governor’s request: but from the high probability that the piece would be lost he does not think that he can at any rate do more than spare him an Iron one. Have you a light small one that will answer and which can be conveniently spared.” The letter (offered for sale by American Art Galleries on 26 Feb. 1917) is not signed.

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