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Letter from Henry Knox, July 27, 1779

TRANSCRIPT GLC 2437.05.007

Henry Knox.  Letter draft:  to George Washington, 1779 July 27. 7 p. + docket.


[inserted - different hand: Opinion deld to Washington July 27 1779]




Your Excellency [struck: having] yesterday stated to your Council of General Officers, our [struck: strength] [inserted: force] & that of the Enemy, [struck: their] and [struck: our] [inserted: our & their] situation, and requested the opinion of the Gentleman seperately, on the position that it will be proper for our army to take, on [struck: the proprierty of] the Question whether any and what offensive measures can with propriety be pursued at present and of the line of Conduct necessary for us to pursue under [struck: present] [inserted: the] circumstances stated.


It is a matter to be much lamented [struck: That a Continent like this] [inserted: This Continent] boasting of its strength and numbers, should be so extremely weak in the field: as to be unable to face the Enemy’s force [inserted: in any situation whatever] But lamentations is all that we can do, we must [struck: make] take circumstances as we find them and make the most of [struck: them] the materials in our possession –


The General principles [2] of the War, being known [struck: and adopted] [inserted: to be defensive], and [inserted: having been] found by an [inserted: even] experience, and the concurrent opinion of our Enemies, and all Europe, to be the <?> line of Conduct by which we are to conduct ourselves we are [strike-out] still to pursue the same measures, and the End must be crown’d with success – That is that there can securely be a combination of events so exceedingly unfavorable [struck: where] which will warrant our fighting general actions with the Enemy, with the ballances of [struck: circumstances] [inserted: chances] against us – But we are to be very wateful for all detachments and upon [struck: <?>] [inserted: every] favorable opportunities endever to strike.


By the Enemy’s extreme caution we are to judge they are expecting reinforcements, or waiting the [struck: event] [inserted: decision] of some [struck: political negociating] [inserted: political event] in Europe – If they do not expect reinforcements I [struck: am totally able] know not how to account for their [struck: taking] [inserted: keeping] possession of Stoney & Verplankes points, more especially after the loss they suffer’d at the [strike-out] former place – It certainly [strike-out] deprives them of every considerable part [3] of their present operating force in the field – The more possession of those places as ports which are of real present Value to them or real Injuring to us, Is by no means of equal Importances to the active services of the [inserted: troops of the <?>] Garrisons in the field – They either [strike-out] intend to make use of those ports as a security in their operations [struck: against] against that point when they shall have received reenforcements, or they [struck: may] mean to and as in such manner and <?> by by frequent movements up the River, as will prevent our making approaches to New York in case, a [inserted: French] fleet should arrive, and other circumstances be favorable – It is an event of this kind that would oblige the Enemy instantly to evacuate the ports at Kings Ferry, & draw all their Force to New-York – an attempt on [struck: New-York] that city, [inserted: and it is [struck: an event] [inserted: a matter] for which we ought to be preparing] in conjunction with a fleet would justify your Excellency in drawing out any number of them [4] and in making the greatest exertions [struck: of a] If it suceeded the event would amply repay the expence, if it did not, the very enterprize of reducing the Enemy to stand upon their defence in that [struck: very] <?>, would be but a disgracing circumstances in the eyes of all Europe, and so honorable to Our Army as would fully justy the attempts – [strike-out] added to which it would totally prevent the possibility of any predatory excursions [inserted: during the [struck: war]Camping] –


[struck: An attempt to] An attempt on Verplanks & Stoney point has been mentioned as an eligible circumstance.  I confess [struck: excepting] I do not see the advantages resulting from such an attempt excepting the disgrace which will be reflected on the Enemy in case we are successful – Stoney point from its [inserted: peculiar] situation appears to be out of the question with the whole army could <?> the operation – and [strike-out] [inserted: the impropriety of] a step of that kind [struck: would be proper] in the present unfinished state of our Works [5] at this post would be very obvious – Verplanks point then is the only consideration – From the Enemies having possession of the River, Stoney & Verplanks points must be consider’d as the same from the easiness with which either side might reenforce the other – To invest and beseige 2000 men would [inserted: certainly] require 4 or 5000 – I should suppose [struck: they] [inserted: that number] could not be spar’d [inserted: at present] – But [inserted: even] supposing [struck: they] [inserted: it] could the Event of driving them [inserted: away], is not quite certain – It must be a Work of Artillery – It is presum’d they have plenty of Ammunition – That is not the case with us – and after all admitting we drive them away, for I do not suppose as they are posses’d of the state we could take them, I do not see [struck: the] [inserted: any great] advantage – They would retire to Stoney point – But if we should not drive them off which is very possible considering the nearness of this main [6] Army we should have a much larger portion of the grace – than if we had never attempted it. – But maturely weighing the cicumstances for and against, and the probabily of an evacuation before winter sets in.  I cannot [struck: an <?>] see the advantage of the attempt, which if even sucessful against Verplancks point will be but a very partial success as by it [struck: you] [inserted: we] shall not obtain possession of the River – and should the Enemy have in view an operation against West point, we can [strike-out] [inserted: now] prevt their taking possession of Stoney and Verplanks points –


[struck: as the Enemy may]

Unless the Enemy receive a large reinforcement their operations will be pretty much confind, up the River, Connecticut, & new Jersey, will probably be the Theatre for this Campaign – The protection of this River ought to be our first object – The protection of Connecticut and the Jersies the second – [struck: We would] [inserted: I am] therefore [struck: adverse] [inserted: of opinion] that the main body be kept [7] here in this neighbourhood Untill the Works are so far finish’d as to be left to  [inserted: defense] the Garrison, and  [inserted: in] the meantime two Brigades to be [struck: a posted as to cover the Jersies and] [inserted: advanced from <?>] Right wing so as to core Jersy [struck: and have a <?>] [inserted: or join the Army as occasion] may require, and two Brigades to be advanc’d in like manner for the protection of Connecticut –


I am with the highest
Respect Your Excellency
Most obediant
& humble sert
H Knox


West point 27th July 1779


Suppose the operation of the Enemy will be confind because it is a very probible [strike-out] event suppose French fleet may make its appearence on our Coast which will prevent the enemy extending themselves for any state –


His Excellency Genl Washington



27 July 1779 –

[inserted - different hand: Knox to Washington
No 3]

Copy of an opinion
deliver’d to Excelncy
General Washington
27th July 1779


[inserted in margin of page 5 - different hand: This is evidently portion of a letter to Washington that may be found, as imperfect, in one of the Early volumes of the Knox NSS. It came to me with the letters of 1797 where it is inserted - the vol. in which it belongs having been arranged and sent to the Society many months ago.  John S.H. Fogg.  25 March 1879.]