George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Colonel Daniel Brodhead, 29 December 1780

To Colonel Daniel Brodhead

Head Quarters New Windsor 29th Decemr 1780

Dear Sir

The State of Virginia have determined to undertake an expedition, which I have ever had in view, and which I wished to carry into execution by a Continental force—but you are sufficiently acquainted with the situation of our Affairs, both as to Men and supplies, to know that it has been impossible to attempt it—It is the reduction of the Post of Detroit—His Excellency Governor Jefferson informs me that he thinks they shall be able, with the Aid of some Artillery and Stores already at Fort Pitt, to accomplish this most desirable object, and that should they even fail of carrying their point, much good will result from creating a diversion and giving the enemy employ in their own Country—The Artillery and Stores required by Governor Jefferson are 4 feild peices

1600 Balls suited to them.

1 Howitzer. 8 Inch

300 Shells suited to it

2 Royals.

Grape shot

necessary implements and furniture for the above

500 Spades

200 pick Axes

1 travelling forge

some Boats, should the State not have enough prepared in time

some ship Carpenters tools.1

Colo. Clarke who is to command the expedition will probably be the Bearer of this himself, and you will deliver to him on his order at such time as he shall require them, all, or as many of the foregoing Articles as you have it in your power to furnish—You will likewise direct the Officers with Company of Artillery to be ready to move when Colo. Clark shall call for them, and as it is my wish to give the enterprize every aid which our small force can afford, you will be pleased to form such a detachment as you can safely spare from your own and Gibson’s Regiment and put it under the command of Colo. Clark also. I should suppose that this detachment cannot be made more than a command for a Capt. or Major at most—You know the necessity of confining it to a Continental Officer of inferior Rank to Colo. Clark.

Your good sense will, I am convinced, make you view this matter in its true light. The inability of the Continent to undertake the reduction of Detroit, which, while it continues in possession of the enemy, will be a constant source of trouble to the whole Western frontier; has of necessity imposed the task upo⟨n⟩ the State of Virginia, and of consequence makes it expedient to confer the command upon an Officer of the State. This being the case, I do not think the charge of the enterprize could have been committed to better hands than Colo. Clarks. I have not the pleasure of knowing the Gentleman, but, independant of the proofs which he has given of his activity and address, the unbounded confidence which I am told the Western people repose in him, is a matter of vast importance, as I imagine a considerable part of his force will consist of Volunteers and Militia, who are not to be governed by military laws, but must be held by the ties of confidence and affection to their leader.

I shall conclude with recommending to you, in general, to give every countenance and assistance to this enterprize, should no circumstances intervene to prevent its execution—One2 thing you may rest assured of, & that is, that while offensive operations are going forwd against Detroit & the Indians in Alliance with the British in that quarter that your Posts with small Garrisons in them and proper vigilance, will be perfectly secure. for this reason & the expedition’s depending upon the supplies here reqd I shall expect a punctual compliance with this order3 and am with great esteem & regard Dr Sir Yr Most Obt Servt


DfS, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. GW enclosed the LS, which has not been found, with his letter to Thomas Jefferson dated 28 December. Brodhead reported the arrival of this letter on 21 Feb. 1781 when he wrote GW on 25 Feb. (DLC:GW).

2Beginning with this word, GW wrote the remainder of the draft.

3Col. George Rogers Clark, commissioned a brigadier general by Virginia governor Thomas Jefferson in early 1781, launched his expedition from Fort Pitt, Pa., in August 1781. British and Indian countermeasures in the Ohio country impeded his command’s advance and compelled Clark to abandon his plan to assault Detroit. For the pertinent documentary record, see James, Clark Papers description begins James Alton James, ed. George Rogers Clark Papers, 1771–1781. Springfield, Ill., 1912. In Collections of the Illinois State Historical Library, vol. 8. Virginia Series, vol. 3. description ends , 485–608.

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