Henry Knox. Document
copy: Report to George Washington,
1778 September 2. 4 p.
- different hand: Copy K. opinion ans. to Commander in Chief Sep. 2. 1778.]
opinion delivered to his Excellency General Washington 2. Sep. 1778 (meeting of
Council of war the eveng of Sep. 1.)
Whether a movement of the greater part of the Army to the Eastward under the
present information and circumstances would be eligible.
not warranted from ye information given by W. last evng to the Council.
10,000 at Newport includes reinforcements from NY & Savannah, they <?>
not at this season attempt Boston by land – canot procure carriges [inserted:
& horses] necessary & Boston of little value if possessed.
Forces not sufficient to hold Boston & the neighboring country.
urged d’Estaing’s fleet at Boston a sufficient inducement – & give
England the ascendancy on the Ocean durng the war with France.
then considers two circumstances – the  supposition of the superiority of
the Fr fleet, and the destruction capture of Sullivan’s army.
opinion is that if Sullivan gets off from R.I. without much urgncy, it will be a
sufficient “staminee” to collect the force of the Country, experience shows
that militia combined with [struck: regulars]
continental troops, would be sufficient at least to delay Br Army on march, till
main army can be forwarded –
of opinion that Sullivan & the militia would be sufficient to totally keep
the Br. considering roughness of the country, the difficulty of enemy obtaining
intelligence, want of the necessary carriages to transport provisions &c
suppose: reach Boston – Br fleet
if superior on broad sea, wd not be so in the narrow channel, when two ships
canot enter abreast – & where a [inserted:
“very] few hulks which are ready prepared would make the approach above
the castle impossible.”
10,000 men it would be too extensive a task to take Castle Island, as they would
be obliged besides to occupy a number of Islands in the harbor – any of which
being carried by this American forces – &c
For these & other reasons K. arrives at the conclusion that the Br. will not
attempt Boston & the Fr.fleet.
acknowledges that should Sullivan’s troops be captured, it wd be such a
misfortune to us & ”prodigious advantage” to Br, as to induce them –
to attempt enterprizes not <?> [struck:
thought of] dreamed of. This wd
require “the immediate march of the greater part of the army – to counteract
then considers an attempt upon Providence, in case of Sullivan’s retreat –
the Br. in full possession of the waters – “P. a rich and defenceless [struck:
town] and <?> town with a considerable quantity of shipping &
sluces, (defenceless because their “heavy cannon” are with Sullivan)
army and your Excellency can have no possible agency in preventing an enterprize
of this kind.”
Supposg the army to move to the Eastward what number of troops would be
necessary to secure the [struck:
highlands] possession of the highlands
Ans – This question cannot be “determined with precision” It should be
relatively strong to the force the enemy may leave in New York.
any attack be made [inserted: the
troops] in NY, on the present information and with a probability of success.
N.Y surrounded by waters, gives party possessg ye navigation a great
superiority. The enemy 9,000 strong
– force adequate agt our army – take time to procure cause [struck: &][inserted:
from a distance] to batten the redoubts on this side King’s Bridges
attempt [inserted: the redoubts] by
surprize wd require a most perfect knowlege of their number constructive
strength and situation – under all the circumstances whc he names he advises
against the attempt.
Suppose The Army to move eastward how shall it be supplied with
Forage for horses – meat fresh & salted for men, no difficulty – The
difficulty wd be in procuring bread. It
must be only by Q M. making arrangemts for a large number of wagans to transport
it from the Southern States. It may
be had, tho. it will require a judicious disposition, and much paine and trouble
to obtain it –