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My Dear Father :
I should have been glad to have accompanied Mr Custis, Mrs Washington's son, who is so kind as to take charge of this; but I cannot be ready in less than a week or ten days.
The late bad weather drove that detachment of the enemy, that was posted on Valentine's hill, into the city, and they now confine themselves within Kingsbridge. The detachment in Jersey from which there are daily desertions of two or three, have not yet returned ; but they have contracted themselves, and seemed to be wholly employed in collecting and carrying off their spoil. Deserters inform us that they have indiscriminately taken every kind of grain, Indian corn, stock and all. One of the vessels burnt by our parties, had stalls fitted up for twelve horses, and ample provision of water for a sea voyage. "We have repeated accounts of the sickliness of Byron's crews. The report of their disorder being contagious is without foundation, as well as that of the British fleets having put to sea in quest of the French.
General Greene who arrived in camp yesterday, gives us an account of Captain Barry's having lost his frigate two days after he sailed from Boston. He engaged a British 32 gun frigate and had fought her with his usual bravery, and great prospect of success ; his men and officers being sworn not to surrender; when a 64 gun ship came up and put an end to the contest; but not before he had given two or three such fires as Barry's situation, relatively to the British frigate, allowed. Our brave captain then avoided violating his oath by running his ship on shoar at Seal island, and keeping up a fire from four guns which he brought to bear in his stern, till he got out his boats and some baggage. He made his escape with eighty hands ; the rest were to shift for themselves by land ing. Ten who concealed themselves have escaped since; one, an Englishman, remained on board and extinguished the fire which Barry put to the ship in order to destroy her, by which means she was saved, and the enemy got her oft .
If the Marquis De Lafayette goes to Europe, it is probable that he will take a great many of his countrymen with him. It is almost certain that many of them will be very troublesome to Congress for certificates. Duplessis applied to me the other day to obtain him a furlough for Philadelphia, and to give him a certificate of his having behaved well at the battle of Monmouth, that he might go and signify his design to Congress of retiring from service.
I replied that he had no need of an introduction to the President if he had any business with Congress, that he already had a most honourable certificate from them, and that if he wanted a final certificate at going away, the Commander in chief was the proper person to apply to. The commissions which Congress have applied so liberally have destroyed the value of rank which is the ostensible reward of merit, and have done great injustice to many brave and experienced officers who have found themselves on a par with, or but one remove from some of their country men who had no pretensions to rank of any kind. The only reparation that can be made, and it is but a feeble one, is to be sparing in the testimonials to be given at their departure, and to make a pointed difference between those which are given to men of real merit, and those which are the effect only of political management.
You will be so good as to excuse my mentioning these matters ; they have occasioned great disgust in foreigners conscious of their worth, much uneasiness in our native officers, and have brought rank into disgrace. In a few days I shall have an opportunity of speaking more fully on this subject and many others if you permit, when I have the happiness of embracing you in Philadelphia. I am anxious to receive a letter from you in the meantime, and begin to count the hours which are to precede my setting out.
My dearest friend and father,
The purchasing commissioners complain of the scarcity of Hour. Some persons high in public office, are accused of the detestable crime of monopolizing. Is there no means of bringing their villainy to light, and expelling them from all share of the people's confidence.
His Excellency, Henry Laurens, Esq.,
President of Congress, Philadelphia.
- Army Correspondence of Colonel John Laurens in the Years 1777 - 78