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The progress, which the enemy are making in Virginia, is very alarming, not only to the State immediately invaded, but to all the rest ; for I strongly suspect, from the most recent European intelligence, that the enemy are endeavouring to make as large seeming conquests as possible, that they may urge the plea of uti possidetis in the proposed mediation. Your Excellency will be able to judge of the probability of this conjecture from the circular letter of the President of Congress.
Were it prudent to commit a detail of our plans and expectations to paper, I could convince you by a variety of reasons, that my presence is essential to the operations, which have lately been concerted between the French commanders and myself, and which are to open in this quarter, provided the British keep possession of New York. There have lately been rumors of an evacuation of that place, but I do not put confidence in them. Should I be supported by the neighbouring States in the manner which I expect, the enemy will, I hope, be reduced to the necessity of recalling part of their force from the southward to support New York, or they will run the most imminent risk of being expelled, with great loss of stores, from that post, which is to them invaluable while they think of prosecuting the war in America ; and should we, by a lucky coincidence of circumstances, gain a naval superiority, their ruin would be inevitable. The prospect of giving relief to the southern States, by an operation in this quarter, was the principal inducement for undertaking it. Indeed we found, upon a full consideration of our affairs in every point of view, that, without the command of the water, it would be next to impossible for us to transport the artillery, baggage, and stores of the army to so great a distance ; and, besides, we should lose at least one third of our force by desertion, sickness, and the heats of the approaching season, even if it could be done.
Your Excellency may probably ask whether we are to remain here for the above reasons, should the enemy evacuate New York, and transfer the whole wtuto the southward. To this I answer without hesitation, that we must in such case follow them at every expense, and under every difficulty and loss ; but that, while we remain inferior at sea, and there is a probability of giving relief by diversion, and that perhaps sooner than by sending reinforcements immediately to the point in distress, policy dictates the trial of the former.
Allow me, before I take leave of your Excellency in your public capacity, to express the obligations I am under for the readiness and zeal with which you have always forwarded and supported every measure, which I have had occasion to recommend through you, and to assure you, that I shall esteem myself honored by a continuation of your friendship and correspondence, should your country permit you to remain in the private walk of life. I have the honor to be, &,c.
- George Washington
- The Writings of George Washington Being His Correspondence, Addresses, Messages, and Other Papers, Official and Private, Selected and Published from the Original Manuscripts. Vol VIII, Jared Sparks, 1839