February 9, 1777


The imprisoned Charles Lee writes the following to General Washington:  “My Dr Sir:  As Lord and General Howe have given me permission to send the inclosd to the Congress, and as the contents are of the last importance to me and perhaps not less to the Community, I most earnestly entreat, My Dr General, that You will despatch it immediately and order the Express to be as expeditious as possible — They have likewise indulgd me with the permission of sending for one of my Aid de Camps—I must therefore, request that You will consent to either Bradford or Eustace returning with the flag of Truce—He will have leave to stay here for one day—and a safe conduct back—my reason for this request is that I have many things material with respect to my private affairs which can be settled better by conference than letter—I am likewise extremely desirous that My Dogs should be brought as I never stood in greater need of their Company than at present.”  Eventually, Lee was able to retain one of his dogs while in custody.

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December 13, 1776


Charles Lee, who has been continuing to take his slow, meandering journey towards Washington, had stayed the night at an inn some distance from his army, and was lounging about when British light horse galloped up.  Seeing them through the window Lee cried out, “For God’s sake, what shall I do?”  The widow who kept the Inn attempted to hide him upstairs, but he gave himself up when the British commander threatened to burn down the house.  The British celebrated capturing the man they believed was the best of the military minds on the American side, and celebrated by making Lee’s horse drink so many toasts to King George that it became staggeringly drunk.  Lee said that he mourned not for himself, but for “a great continent…frustrated in the honest ambition of being free.”  George Washington, upon hearing the news, says, “This is an additional misfortune, and the more vexatious as it was by his own folly and imprudence (and without a view to answer any good) he was taken, “ having gone “three miles out of his own camp for the sake of a little better lodging.”  Washington ordered Lee’s forces to meet him in Pennsylvania.

Former loyalist Governor Thomas Hutchinson, from Massachusetts, writes, “A fast on account of the American War, observed with strictness and a great external devotion, the churches crowded more than ever known on Sundays, and shops everywhere shut, and few people to be seen in the streets.

Governor Cooke of Rhode Island writes both Massachusetts and Connecticut asking for a Council of War to oppose the British force of some 6 to 8,000 that landed in Newport on December 8, 1776.

British army goes into winter quarters.

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December 5, 1776


General Washington writes to the Board of War not to bring three ranking British prisoners to Trenton for passage to New York, because they would report to William Howe the condition of the American Army.

Washington writes to John Hancock, as well, in regards to his continued concern over General Lee’s failure to join his army with Washington’s:  “Since I had the honor of addressing you Yesterday, I received a Letter from Genl Lee. On the 30th Ulto he was at Peeks Kills, and expected to pass the River with his division two days after. From this intelligence you will readily conclude, that he will not be able to afford us any aid for several days. The report of Genl Sinclair’s having Joined him with Three or four Regiments, I believe to be altogether premature, as he mentions nothing of it. It has arisen, as I am informed, from the return of some of the Jersey & Pensylvania Troops from Ticonderoga, whose time or service is expired. They have reached Pluckemin where I have wrote to have ’em halted and kept together, if they can be prevailed on, till further orders.”

Meanwhile, Charles Lee writes to Washington about, among other things, his concern over his horse:  “I have receiv’d your pressing letter—since which intelligence was sent me that you had quitted Brunswick—so that it is impossible to know where I can join you—but ⟨a⟩ltho I shou’d not be able to join you at all the service which I can render you will I hope be full as efficacious[.] the Northern Army has already advanced nearer Morris Town than I am—I shall put myself at their head tomorrow—We shall upon the whole compose an Army of five thoushand good Troops in spirits—I shoud imagin, Dr General, that it may be of service to communicate this to the Corps immediately under your Command—it may encourage them and startle the Enemy—in fact this confidence must be risen to a prodigious heighth, if They pursue you, with so formidable a Body hanging on their flank, or rear—I shall cloath my People at the expence of the Tories—which has a double good effect—it puts them in spirits and comfort and is a correction of the iniquity of the foes of Liberty.  It is paltry to think of our Personal affairs when the whole is at stake—but I entreat you to order some of your suite to take out of the way of danger my favourite Mare which is at Hunt Wilsons three miles the other side of Princeton.”

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November 27, 1776


General Washington writes General Charles Lee in Westchester urging Lee to join him in New Jersey.  “I confess I expected you would have been sooner in motion.  The force here when joined by yours, will not be adequate to any great opposition, at present it is weak, and it has been more owing to the badness of the weather that the enemy’s progress has been checked, than any resistance we could make.  They are now pushing this way.”

Lee, perhaps in a reflection of Washington’s diminished power base after the losses in New York, seems not to feel inclined to follow Washington’s “suggestion” at this point.

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June 14, 1776


Congress orders Major General Philip Schuyler to confer with Six Nations Indians (Mohawk, Oneida, Tuscarora, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca) and “engage them in our interest upon the best terms that can be procured” and to proceed to erect a fortification at Fort Stanix, New York.

Major General John Sullivan with 2500 men decides to evacuate Canada and make a stand at Ticonderoga.  The British fleet occupied Sorel in about 2 hours.

Charles Lee writes to Benjamin Franklin on his ideas to create an army and prepare for war:  “I am very happy that my letter to Lord Thanet meets with your approbation. I send you here some crude notions of what ought be adopted.  1st  A solemn league and covenant defensive and offensive to be taken by every man in America, particularly by those in or near the Sea Port Towns; all those who refuse, to have their estates confiscated for the public use, and their persons remov’d to the interior par[t of] the Country with a small pension res[erved?] for their subsistance.2dly  New York to [be] well fortify’d and garrison’d or totally destroy’d.  3dly  No Regiments to be rais’d f[or any?] particular local purposes, but one general g[reat?] Continental Army adequate to evry purpose. South Carolina may be excepted from its distance and peculiar circumstances.4thly.  The Regiments to be exchang’d those who are rais’d in one Province to serve in another rather than in their own, viz. the New Englanders in New York the N. Yorkers in New England and so on. This system will undoubtedly make ’em better Soldiers.5thly.  A general Militia to be establishd and the regular Regiments to be formd by drafts from the Militia or their substitutes.  6thly.  A certain portion of lands to be [assign]ed to evry Soldier who serves one campaign [a d]ouble portion to him who serves two, and so on.7thly.  A strong flying camp to be kept about Hampton Bay, another about Annapolis and Charles Town in S. Carolina to be well watch’d and guarded.  8thly.  The greatest [pains?] to be taken and no expence to be spar’d in securing the Indians to our interest.  These measures may appear bold but I am sure they will be efficacious and decisive decision is the onset[?] of success. I wish I had time to write a longer letter, and I wish my pen was better to be more legible.”

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April 5, 1776


General Charles Lee arrived in Williamsburg, Virginia, and wrote to General Washington as follows:  “I most sincerely congratulate you, I congratulate the Public on the great and glorious event—your possession of Boston—it will be a most bright page in the annals of America, and a most abominable black one in those of the Beldam Britain—go on, My Dr General, crown yourself with glory and establish the liberties and lustre of your Country on a foundation more permanent than the Capitol Rock—my situation is just as I expected. I am afraid that I shall make a shabby figure without any real demerits of my own—I am like a Dog in a dancing school—I know not where to turn myself, where to fix myself—the circumstances of the Country intersected by navigable rivers, the uncertainty of the Enemy’s designs and motions who can fly in an instant to any spot They chuse with their canvass wings throw me, or wou’d throw Julius Cæsar into this inevitable dilemma—I may possibly be in the North, when as Richard says, I shou’d serve my Sovereign in the West—I can only act from surmise and have a very good chance of surmising wrong—I am sorry to grate your ears with a truth, but must at all events assure you, that the Provincial Congress of N. York are Angels of decision when compar’d with your Countrymen the Committee of Safety assembled at Williamsburg. Page, Lee, Mercer and Payne are indeed exceptions, but from Pendleton, Bland the Treasurer & Co.—libera nos Domine1—I shall not trouble you with a detail of the Army, ordinance stores, but compendiously say that the Regiments in general are very compleat in numbers, the Men (those that I have seen) fine—but a most horrid deficiency of Arms—no intrenching tools, no guns (âltho the Province is pretty well stockd) mo⟨mutilated⟩ service—had I only eight eighteen Pounders I wou’d immediately at all events take post on Crany Island, by which measure I shoud drive out the Enemy and exclude em from the finest and most advantageous Port in America—I have order’d with this view the Artificers to work night and day—if I succeed I shall come in for a sprig of lawrels—this essenstial measure might have been effected long ago, but the same apathy and oblique squinting towards what the milk and water People call reconciliation; the prodigious flattering prospect open’d by the appointment of Commissioners were strong arguments against the expence of gun carriages and intrenching tools—but this is not all They have distributed their Troops in so ingeneous a manner, as to render evry active offensive operation impossible—an equal number of their Battalions are station’d on the different necks—They say, very acutely, that as the expence is equal, the security ought to be equal—I cannot help perswading myself that their object will be to take possession of Williamsburg—not only from it’s tempting advantageous situation commanding in great measure two fine rivers and a Country abundant in all the necessaries for an army; but the possession of the Capital woud give an air of dignity and decided superiority to their arms, which in this Slave Country where dominion is founded on opinion ⟨multilated⟩ a circumstance of the utmost importance—perhaps I may be mistaken—but the surmise is not irrational[.] I have calld three Regiments down the Country—You will excuse, My Dr General, the blots and scratches of this letter—for the Post is just going out—by the next I will inform You of the steps We have taken for the security of this place—I have been desir’d to recommend Colonel Grayson as a Man of extraordinary merit He sets out soon to make application to the Congress for an establishment—if We have, as We must, a Continental Hospital in the Southern department Dr McClurg I suppose will be the Man to direct it—I need not mention his qualifications—they are so well known7—I beg You will make some body write to me from time to time, indeed I think I may modestly insist on Mr Palfrey’s Pen being employ’d often in this service—adieu, Dr General…”

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February 28th and 29th, 1776


General George Washington’s troops prepare to move ahead on the proposed occupation of Dorchester Heights.  Writing to Burwell Bassett, he writes, “We are preparing to take possession of a post (which I hope to do in a few days—if we Can get provided with the means) which will, it is generally thought bring on a rumpus between us & the enemy, but whether it will or not—time only Can show—It is believed by many that the troops are preparing for a removal from Boston—it being Certain that they are watering & fitting up their vessels for the reception of the Crew, & have actually put some of their heavy ordnance on board; but whether this is for deception or to prepare against orders that may arrive, I know not.”

General Charles Lee writes to George Washington from New York, regarding Washington’s last letter urging him to travel to Canada (which he has been ordered to do by Congress as well) to help Benedict Arnold.  Dr General – I am now so far recover’d tho far from well, that I shall set out in two days—the stripping Ticonderora so intirely of it’s heavy Cannon is a most unfortunate circumstance, as the transportation of ’em from this place is a busyness of monstrous difficulties expence and labour—The Congress have as yet not taken the least step for the security of this place—the instant I leave it, I conclude the Provincial Congress and Inhabitants in general will relapse into their former Histerics.”

Lee continues on to explain the scarcity of his letters to Washington, a matter that Washington has chided him over.  “I have this moment receiv’d yours of the 22’d—it is a sort of reprim⟨and⟩ for not having more exactly inform’d you of the occurrencies here—I do assu⟨re⟩ you, General, that I have wrote fully and frequently—it is true, I believe two Posts have carried no letters from me, but I wou’d not trouble you when I had nothing material to communicate—I shall not intrench myself behind the parade of great busyness, (for my first busyness tis to be attentive to my General,) nor shall I make a plea of the loss of Palfrey, since whose departure I have been oblig’d to write with my own hand even, the most trifling note—but in fact, tho I confess I am naturally remiss, I have not neglected my duty in this point—I have suffer’d no safe opportunity to escape me—but enough of this—I sha⟨ll⟩ now give you a detail of what We have been doing and in what circumstances We are—Our, force including the Minute Men, amoun⟨ts⟩ to about seventeen hundred Men—Ward’s Regt which is the stron⟨gest,⟩ I have station’d in long Island—They are employ’d in making fascines and preparing other materials for constructing three redouts, one of which will in great measure (in correspondence with a battery which I have sunk opposite to it in the City) will secure the entrance of the East River—Waterbury’s and Stirlings Regts are quarterd in the City—the former in the upper Barracks, the latter in the lower—two hundred Minute Men are likewise lodg’d in the Town—Drakes Regt of Minute Men and one more Company (in all about two hundred) are station’d at Horn’s Hook which commands the pass of Hell Gate—They are employ’d in throwing up a redout to contain three hundred Men—as to the Town, having few hands and the necessary duty being hard—I have been able to effect little—I have indeed thrown down the side of the Fort next the Town to prevent it’s being converted into a Citadel for the use of the Enemy—it was absolutely impossible to be moulded into any thing which coud annoy their Ships—I have likewise thrown a traverse or barrier across the Broad Way two hundred yards in the rear of the fort with four pieces of Cannon to prevent the enemy lodging themselves in the remains of the Fort and repairing it—it is likewise my intention to barricade all the streets leading into the Broad Way both on the right and left to secure us against being taken in reverse—Batteries are to be erected ⟨on⟩ the eminence behind Trinity Church to keep ⟨the⟩ir Ships at so great a distance as not to injure the ⟨to⟩wn—as We are surrounded by navigable Waters, I consider enclos’d Works as rather dangerous—it was therefore my intention to throw up a great number of large Fleches or Redans at certain distances one behind another—so as to render it a disputable Field of Battle against any force. Kings Bridge being a most important pass—without the command of which We cou’d have no communication with Connecticut I had resolv’d to make as strong as possible such were my schemes, but as the Congress have not furnish’d the Force which I was taught to expect from Philadelphia We have not had it in our Power to effect more than I have related—Governor Tryon and the Asia still continue betwixt Nutten and Bedlow’s Islands—it has pleas’d his Excellency in violation of the compact—He had made to seize sevral vessels from Jersey laden with flour it has, in return pleas’d my Excellency to stop all provision from the City and cut of all intercourse with him—a meas⟨ure⟩ which has thrown the Mayor Council and Tories into agonies—the propensity or rather rage for paying Court to this great man is inconceivable—They cannot be wean’d from him—We must put wormwood on his paps, or They will cry to suck as are in their second childhood—Capt. Smith is just return’d from Fort Constitution—He gives a most terrible account of it—the expence of its construction has been enormous, its defects both in point of situation laying out finishing, &ca are numerous—He has made the pl⟨an⟩ of another which will command, as far as I can judge from it on ⟨paper⟩ the River effectually9—I have now related as minutely as necess⟨ary⟩ our situation—as I shall set out very soon it will probably be my last from this place—I must intreat once more, Dr General, that you will spare us a company of Artillery.”

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