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I am now so far recovered, though far from well, that I shall set out in two days. The stripping Ticonderoga so entirely of its heavy cannon, is a most unfortunate circumstance, as the transportation of them from this place is a business of monstrous difficulties, expense, and labor.
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 hysterics; the men-of-war and Mr. Tryon will return to their old station at the wharves; and the first regiments, who arrive from England, will take quiet possession of the town and Long Island. I have written letters till I am tired, on the subject, to the Congress, but have received no answer. The Committee of three, who were here to confer with me, agreed it was necessary that five thousand men should be in the place. They left us, and no notice has been taken of the affair since. Great and extensive works were resolved upon ; and we have scarcely sufficient numbers to mark out the ground, much less to throw up the works. In short, I know not what to make of this apathy on so important a subject.
Messrs. Price, Walker, and, since them, the volunteer Melchior, are arrived from Canada. It is very lucky, for they can communicate all the necessary lights to the Congress with respect to the measures which must be taken in that country. By their accounts, nothing is so much wanted as artillerymen. Captain Lamb's company were all taken prisoners. I wish, indeed it is necessary, you should spare us a company from Boston. We cannot possibly do with out them. We have none here. I entreat, dear General, you would detach Captain Badlam's company. The Captain and I are now well acquainted, and agree wonderfully. The Pennsylvania and Jersey troops march for Canada; are good and strong in numbers. The spirit of enlisting prevails through the whole country. I am told, but cannot believe it, that the New England Delegates oppose the enlisting for a year. They say, by means of a shorter engagement the whole country would be soldiers. A curious whim this. Who the d 1 can fill their heads with such nonsense ? 1 should think a letter from you on the subject, to either of the Adamses, would have a good effect,
I have this moment received yours of the 22d. It is a sort of reprimand for not having more exactly informed you of the occurrences here. I do assure you, General, that I have wrote fully and frequently. It is true, I believe, two posts have carried no letters from me, but I would not trouble you when I had nothing material to communicate. I shall not in trench myself behind the parade of great business, for my first business is to be attentive to my General. Nor shall I make a plea of the loss of Palfrey, since whose departure I have been obliged to write with my own hand every the most trifling note. But, in fact, though I confess I am naturally remiss, I have not neglected my duty in this point. I have suffered no safe opportunity to escape me. But enough of this.
I shall now give you a detail of what we have been doing, and in what circumstances we arc. Our force, including the minute-men, amounts to about seventeen hundred men. Ward's regiment, which is the strongest, I have stationed on Long Island. They are employed in making fascines, and preparing other materials for constructing three redoubts, one of which will, in great measure, (in correspondence with a battery which I have sunk opposite to it in the city), secure the entrance of the East River. Waterbury's and Stirling's regiments are quartered in the city; the former in the upper barracks, the latter in the lower. Two hundred minute-men are likewise lodged in the town. Drake's regiment of minute-men, and one more company (in all about two hundred), are stationed at Horen's Hook, which commands the pass of Hell Gate. They are employed in throwing up a redoubt 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 its being converted into a citadel for the use of the enemy. It was absolutely impossible to be moulded into any thing which could annoy their ships. I have likewise thrown a traverse, or barrier, across the Broadway, 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 Broadway, 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 their ships at so great a distance as not to injure the town. As we are surrounded by navigable waters, I consider inclosed 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. King's Bridge, being a most important pass, without the command of which we could have no communication with Connecticut, I had resolved to make as strong as possible. Such were my schemes ; but as the Congress have not furnished 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 Tryou and the Asia still continue betwixt Nutten's and Bedloe's Islands. It has pleased his Excellency, in violation of the compact he had made, to seize several vessels from Jersey, laden with flour. It has, in return, pleased my Excellency to stop all provision from the city, and cut off all intercourse with him, a measure 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 weaned from him. We must put wormwood on his paps, or they will cry to suck, as they are in their second childhood.
Captain Smith is just returned from Fort Constitution. He gives me a most terrible account of it. The expense of its construction has been enormous. Its defects, both in point of situation, laying out, finishing, &c., are numerous. He has made the plan of another, which will command, as far as I can judge from it on paper, the river effectually.
I have now related, as minutely as necessary, our situation. As I shall set out very soon, it will probably be my last from this place. I must entreat, once more, dear General, that you will spare us a company of artillery. Badlam seems rather averse, on proposing it.
Adieu, dear Sir. Yours, with the greatest respect and affection,
- General Lee
- Correspondence of the American Revolution; Being Letters of Eminent Men to George Washington, from the Time of His Taking Command of the Army to the End of His Presidency, Volume I., Jared Sparks, 1853