George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Stirling, 2 November 1780

From Major General Stirling

Camp, Totawa, November 2d 1780.

In Considering the Several Matters laid before the Council of General Officers by Your Excellency Yesterday the following are the thoughts that have Occurred to me thereon, vizt.1

That Although the Enemy at N. York have Since the 6th of September last made a detachment estimated at about 3000 men which is Supposed to be destined to the Southward to Cooperate with Lord Cornwallis; Yet it is Certain they have received a reinforcement from Europe of near 2000 said to be Cheifly Recruits;2 But it has been Asserted thro’ a Variety of Channels that two Old Brittish Regiments are Arrived there. and Considering that a very Valuable Corps of horse and foot under Major Lee has lately been detached from this Army, and that Colonel Warners Regt on the Northern frontier has lately been Cheifly Cut off by the Enemy;3 The Comparitive Strength4 of the two Armies in this Quarter stands nearly as it did on the Said 6th of September last.

That from expireing Inlistments, by the last Returns in your Excellency’s possession,5 it appears that this Army will by the first day of January Next be reduced to little more than 5000 Men Rank & file.

That from the estimate of the Engineers it will require at least 1800 Men to Garrisson the Works at West point, besides its dependencies. fort Schyler and other posts on the Northern frontier will require Considerable Garrissons, in the whole not less that 3000 Men. there will then remain an Army of about 2000 Men, to keep the Enemy in Check at New York, to Cover the States of Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Pensilvania from their immediate Ravages and to give Succour to West point in Case it should be attacked.

I cannot therefore hessitate in forming an Opinion on the first Question Your Excellency has been pleased to State to the Council. It is That no further detachment can be made from this Army, to reinforce the Southern Army, or for any other purpose whatever. On the Contrary it is evident that this Army, (Unless means be found to reinforce it) will be at the Mercy of the Enemy, at least its Motions may be governd by their Will and pleasure, whenever they Chuse to exert themselves.

The Answer to the Second Question must in a great Measure be governed by What is like to be the State of the Army dureing the Winter; Several Conveint Scituations might be pointed out for huting the Army6 below the first Ridge of Mountains between the great falls of Passaick and the Raratan,7 But the weak State of the Army forbids our makeing Use of them: It must be placed beyond the Stroke of a Nights March of light troops; Nothing less than twenty Miles from the shore or landing places will answer this purpose, and after examining in my own Mind the different Grounds in Jersey and New York, there is none in my Opinion will Answer all the purposes so well as the Country the Army was in last Winter in Morris County,8 by falling a little back or Moveing to the right there will Still be plenty of wood; a Brigade or two may perhaps be well placed two or three Miles further to the Right, But this will better be determined on a further View.

The Advantages resulting from keeping the Army late in the feild are many, but the time of going into Quarters must in a great Measure be regulated by the Weather, some years admit an Army to keep the feild late in december, others will not suffer men to be abroad in November, and if we are to Judge from present appearances, this is likely to be a Winter of the latter sort,9 the Snow that is falling will lye in the Mountains, and Chill every blast of Wind that passes over them, an early Winter of Course Comes on. but there is another reason that would induce me to advise going early into huts this Winter many of the young Soldiers who might be induced to inlist dureing the War, would be deterred from it by the hardships of a late Campaign.10 If the weather Continues Cold, I would advise your Excellency to move the Army to its Winter Ground by the Middle of this Month at furthest.11

stirling, M.G.

ALS, DLC:GW; ADf, NHi: Stirling Papers; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Stirling dated his draft 1 Nov. 1780.

2For the recent arrival of British recruits, see John Jameson to GW, 31 Oct., n.2.

3For the capture of a large part of Col. Seth Warner’s regiment at Fort George on New York’s northern frontier, see Warner to GW, 30 October.

4Stirling wrote “Strenght” for this word.

5These returns have not been identified.

6Stirling refers to the prospective winter encampment of the main army.

7Stirling evidently means to the east of the Watchung Mountains, which run from the area near the Great Falls of the Passaic River in the north to the Raritan River in the south.

8For the main army’s winter encampment at Jockey Hollow near Morristown, N.J., see GW to Nathanael Greene, 30 Nov. 1779, n.2.

10Stirling’s draft ends at this point.

11For the Continental army’s winter encampment, see GW to Samuel Huntington, 28 Nov., and n.12.

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