George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Thomas Jefferson, 9 December 1780

To Thomas Jefferson

Head Quarters New Windsor Decr 9th 1780.

Dear Sir

I have been duly honored with Your Excellency’s severals Letters of the 3d 10th and 19th Novembr with their Inclosures;1 at the time of their receipt, the Army was preparing for Winter Quarters, and a multiplicity of business prevented my acknowledging them until this moment. I pray you now, to be assured, I was extremely obliged, by your particular attention, in making those communications, which were so interesting & necessary while the Enemy were expected to operate in your State. Since your last, I have heard nothing officially of their movements to the Southward; from whence I shall still be very2 anxious to have the earliest & most authentic intelligence.3

We have nothing new of importance, in this quarter. The Troops are disposed of in their Winter Cantonments—the Pennsylvania Line near Morris Town—the Jersey Brigade at Pompton to cover the communication with the North River—the York Brigade in the neighbourhood of Albany, furnishing a Garrison for Fort Schuyler. And the remainder of the Army, viz. the New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island & Connecticut Lines at West Point, and its vicinity.4 The French fleet and Army remain still at Rhode Island. The Enemy’s fleet it is thought will winter in Gardners Bay;5 And their Army occupies its former position on York Island & its dependencies.

It is happy for us, that the season will probably compel both Armies to continue in a state of inactivity; since ours is so much reduced by discharging the Levies, which composed a considerable part of it, even before their time of service expired—this expedient we were forced to adopt from the present total want of flour, and the precarious prospect of a supply, of that Article. I cannot but hope,6 more vigorous & effectual Measures will be pursued for obtaining supplies before another Campaign.

A Flag Vessel has permission to go from New York to the usual place in Virginia to carry supplies & necessaries for the Troops of Convention—should any alteration of disposition of those Troops, make any new directions necessary, I must request your Excellency to give them.7

I shall make it a point, to communicate the earliest advices of any movements of the Enemy, which are necessary to be known by You, and in the mean time I have the honor to be With great respect & esteem Your Excellencys &c.

Go. Washington

P.S. Since writing the above, I have been favored with Your Letter of 26 Ulto—I will endeavour to obtain a Model for the construction of Boats, & transmit it by an early conveyance.8

I am this momt informed, from New York another embarkation is taking place consisting of 1 Batt. Grenadiers—1 Batt. Lt Infantry 1 Batt. Hessian Grenadiers—Knyphausen’s Regt—42d British; a Draft of 5 Men from each Company in the Lines & 2 Troops of Lt Dragoons under Genls Knyphausen & Philips supposed to be destined Southward.9

Df, in David Humphreys’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1Jefferson’s letter to GW on 19 Nov. has not been found, but see Nathanael Greene’s first letter to GW, that date, postscript, and n.10.

2Humphreys wrote and struck out “impatient and” at this place on the draft.

3GW worried about the movements of the British expedition under Maj. Gen. Alexander Leslie (see GW to Samuel Huntington, 17 Oct., n.2, and Greene to GW, 31 Oct., n.4).

5See Nathaniel Shaw to GW, 23 Nov., postscript, and n.6 to that document.

6Humphreys first wrote “a wiser system &” at this place on the draft. He then struck out “wiser” and wrote “better” above the line before also striking out that word.

7See GW to William Phillips, this date, found at Phillips to GW, 30 Nov., n.3; see also GW to Henry Clinton, this date.

8See Jefferson to GW, 26 Nov., and n.9 below.

9For this intelligence, see Anthony Wayne to GW, 10 Dec., n.2. GW again wrote Jefferson from New Windsor on 27 Dec.: “The inclosed are the dimensions of the most convenient Flat Boats, either for transportation upon Carriages, or for transporting Men. The plan was given to me by an Officer who has made experiments with those of different kinds.

“The transports, with the embarkation which I mentioned in mine of the 9th fell down to the Hook on the 19th instant, and as the Wind was fair, it is supposed they went to sea the same day. The British Grenadiers and Infantry had been under orders to embark, but for some reason they were countermanded, and other Corps substituted. I have little doubt of their having gone to the Southward” (LS, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, NjMoHP; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW; for the enclosure, see William Heath to GW, 20 Dec., n.2; see also Jefferson to James Maxwell, 16 Jan. 1781, in Jefferson Papers description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 41 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends , 4:380). For the British expedition to Virginia under Brig. Gen. Benedict Arnold, see GW to Huntington, 27 Dec. 1780, and n.2. to that document; see also GW to Jefferson, 2 Jan. 1781 (DLC:GW).

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