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Letter from Henry Knox, October 19, 1778

TRANSCRIPT GLC 2437.04.137

Henry Knox.  Autograph letter draft: to George Washington, 1778 October 19.  7 p. + doc.


[inserted – different hand:  Oct 19 1778]


[inserted – different hand:  K. opinion agt detaching a part of the main army towards Boston –; and in favor of keeping the army in a “collected state” during the winter –]




I have considered the information which your Excelleny on the 16th instant was pleas’d to give to the board of Genl Officers. and of the propositions then given, for their [struck: of] considera[tion] and opinions.


[struck: The first of which whether] [inserted:[struck: An answer to but answer in writing to the best hiring or proposition <?>]] vizt. whether it will be prudent and adviseable to make a Detachment of the main Army towards Boston and if so of what force?  was so fully discus’d at the time it was propos’d and the conclusion drawn that it would be unnecesary to say any thing further on the subject.


The second was “Whether the Army shall be held in a collected state during the Winter and where”?


There are several weighty reasons why the Army should be held in as collected a state as possible. vzt The safety of it – its readiness to act offensively upon any opportunity being given by the Enemy.  Its discipline.  Its reputation, for if the Army is dispersed into [struck: many] [inserted: several] cantonments or not The Calls of [strike-out] many officers who have <?> [2] Families will be so great as to oblige them to obtain [struck: either] furlowe or leave the service – The chance will be equal that the officer who go home for the winter are as good as any in the service.  If the army is divided in to several cantonments the loss of these officers for the time will be much greater than if the Army is collected.  Duty in the Cantonments will be much more more long than in the main Army.  The men will maraud. and most probably the body of troops will be much more unfit at the opening of the Campaign to take the field than when they went into Quarters –


If the Army is collected, discipline [inserted: of all kinds] will be more [struck: promptly] readily kept up, as all officers of all Classes will be immediately under the direction of the Commander in Chief.


The only [struck: thing] [inserted: argument] to be oppos’d to the Army’s being collected will be the difficulty of supplying it with Provisions and Forage – But [struck: I believe it] if the Army take a proper position These difficulties will in a degree <loss>


I would with defference propose that the Army should take a position either at Ri[inserted: d]gefield [3] or [struck: the] the Communication from [struck: th] [inserted: that place] to <?> Pond – [struck: My reasons for it are these] The Majority to be Fish-Kill or some place on the road from it to Ridgefield, [inserted: [struck: <?>]] [struck: and] at Danbury, and some place immediately in the rear of the Army – all the supplies coming on from the Eastward to be deposited at Danbury – all down the North River at Fish Kill – all from Pensylvania and the Southward to be crs’d over at Kings ferry and deposited at or in the rear of the Camp – To protect the Communication thro’ the Jersies – a Division to be posted at or near the Clove – one regiment of which to be at <?> – [inserted: [struck: part of a]] a brigade to be posted at the Continental Village or Peeksill [struck: and two Regiments of which to be posted at] [inserted: and] Kings Ferry with some Artillery – a Redoubt to be thrown up with Battery on each side [inserted: of the River] to guard against a suprize – The Communication thus guarded from the Southward would afford ample security to all supplies being forwarded.  [struck: The goodness of] the road [struck: thro’ the Jersies] below the the Mountains thro the Jersies being so much better than above and [4] Country abound with much more Forage will be sufficient inducements to perfer the road thro morris Town than that the upper road this sufizes – The road from Kings ferry to Ridgefield is very tolerable – I should perfer the above position to any other that I have heard propos’d and I think the only objection than can be made to it, is the Subsistence which upon a nearer examination and experience could be found to be very practicab<l>e – The posts in the highlands will be unatachated in Winter, Indeed to render that matter absolutely certain, [struck: a couple] two additiona<l> regiments or a brigade might be posted at the Continental Village or Peeks Kill – [struck: It]


This disposition would afford an apparent and real security to Connecticut, and from the exertions of that state they are entitled to every protection in our power. – it would secure a much greater proportion of this state than if we took post at Fish Kill or in the mountains near it.


There is another consideration [struck: what in wh] in which there is considerable weight – The officers of the Army are allowed but one ration.  every body knows most of them do not constantly subsist on it [5] It is expected that they get Refreshment from the adjacent Country.  let them be cut off from this advantage and oblig’d to subsist on their one ration [struck: and they will soon become discontented] [inserted: immers’d amid [struck: might <?>] mountains] of snow & Ice [struck: as] such as the highlands.  They [struck: The Consequence of which will be ] will be soon discontented.  Resignations will prevail.  & each resignation of a good officer at this time will be an irreparable loss – very few will [struck: at this period] [inserted: now] enter the army.  When they are certain it is the high road to poverty & when they can make immense fortunes [struck: out of] [inserted: in] Trade.


The Country [struck: contiguous] contiguous to the highlands is barren and produces but little, that about Fish Kill is exhausted – The Country near Ridgefield is plentiful and unexhausted.


3d   “Whether [struck: it] [inserted: the Army] shall be distributed [struck: & where ?]  into Cantonments & in what particular manner”?


My opinion is against the Army being distributed, [struck: for the] other than as above and for the reasons given.


[6] 4th  “What precautions shall be adopted in either case [inserted: to shelter the troops [struck: and provide]] to provide subsistence [struck:  and <?>] both of forage & provision?”


This can best be answered by the Commossaries of Provision & of Forage.  But I make now doubt were your Excellency to inform the Governor of this state of the information which has been given to you, by of the large quantities of grain secreted by the neutral and disafected part of the people of this state”  That he with the Legislature would find some effective method with the assistance of the Army to draw forth those hidden [struck: <?>] [inserted: Stores –] –


[struck: The Governor]

With Respect to forgage – The horses of the Artillery and baggage Waggons – and the [struck: a] great part of the Cavalry to be sent to in this state Connecticut, and the Jersies –


[struck: 5th] We can shelter the troops in the same manner as last Year, with some additional advantages [struck: of size] [inserted: of] boards for the doors & which I should supposed might be procur’d.  I am pretty confident that a position which would afford sufficient mobility [7] might be found near Ridgefield –


An opinion &ce
Octo 19th. 1778