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Letter from Henry Knox, September 9, 1780


Henry Knox.  Autograph letter draft signed:  Bergen County, to George Washington, 1780 September 9.  7 p. + docket.


Camp Bergen County 9th Sep 1780 –


[inserted – different hand: H.K. opinion Sep. 9. 1780 in answer to Washington of Sep. 6]




I have endevor’d attentively to consider the several propositions, resulting since the state of the circumstances of the army, and Country, which your Excellency on the 6th instant was pleasd to lay before your General officers assembled in Council.


The respective States, [struck: not fully] [inserted: [struck: only partially] having] complied [inserted: only partially] with the requisitions made of them of men and provisions – The inadequate quantities of military stores; the disaperance of [inserted: a considerable] part of the armorment expected from France, and a number of other causes have at last produced a conviction, that the siege of New-York, the primary object of the intended operations of the Campaign cannot be undertaken with the [inserted: force &] means in our possession.


If [struck: New York] it shall be establishd that New York [struck: at present] cannot be attaind with our present force, an enquiry arises, is there any object that we can employ the troops against which [2] will promise success and compensation for the [struck: trouble] expence [inserted: attending it] [struck: an] the acquisition? – Hallifax has been mention’d by the Court of France, and others; as a proper object for our excertions. – But it is certain, that Hallifax, even supposing the <?>, cannot be maintaind without an naval force, and therefore must be lost to America – whenever the Enemy shall please to attack it – if this is true, our attempt on it, would be a [struck: great] misaplcation of our force under [struck: our] [inserted: the] present Circumstances. –


Canada ought to claim a great proportion of the attention of America – with the possession of that [struck: state] [inserted: Province], the frontiers of the respective states, will always be subject to blood and desolation. – But the [struck: period] season is too far advanc’d, & circumstances [inserted: too] unfavorable to [strike-out] attempt it at present –


To disposes the Enemy at Penobscot, requires a favorable season, and a superior navy, but the force there is so [struck: small] [inserted: triffling], [struck: that] [inserted: as] [3] to follow the fate of Hallifax, or be subjected by a small detachment at a period when we shall be masters of those seas –


These objects being either improper or impracticable the southern states loudly claims, protection and assistance from the rest of America by their union, [struck: and assistance to] [inserted: and perseveranc with] us they have united the [inserted: severe] misfortunes that have befallen them – we are bound by interest, and good faith to render them every possible succour in our power – The Enemy by their former and recent success appear to have the asscendancy not only so far as to silence opposition but to draw out the resourses of [struck: Geo] men and provisions from Georgia and South Carolina, and to threaten North Carolina with total subjugation – The full possession of those three states will confer immeasurable advantages on the enemy in the cause of the War and [strike-out] [inserted: probably] enable [4] them to conquer [inserted: at least from] the [struck: remainder] [inserted: others] – The principal inhabitants of spirit will be made prisoners, and the common people enjoying the sweets of ease, and commerce will be willing to remain under the british government [struck: even at the] conclusion of peace, [struck: and perhaps] [inserted: and will perhaps at the] & an act of their own refuse to return to the [struck: American] union – [struck: America] dispossed of Georgia North & South Carolina [inserted: America] will be deprivd of their [struck: assistance in paying] [inserted: [struck: resources] proportion of] the <?> of the war, and of articles immensely valuable in the commerce and which cannot be obtained but by permission of [struck: a <?>] [inserted: a jealous Enemy] [struck: Great Britain who will be ever jealous of the rise of  America who [inserted: <?> of the truce] will be cautious in proportion to her jealousy] [inserted: of those states] – besides which, to suffer three states to fall <?> to and remain in possession of the Enmy with so small a force, will <?> be <?> the extremely of weakness in America –


Therefore the moment [struck: that can acquire] second division [inserted: of the french fleet] shall arive <?> can gain a naval superiorty we [5] ought to send by water the whole of the french troops, and so many of the Americans as will make up ten thousand men; included the regular force of Virginia and Maryland which [struck: many] [inserted: [struck: most] may] be rais’d in the [inserted: present] exigence – The [struck:  force] [inserted: Army] that shall be sent must be so completely superior as to accomplish its point speedily – our exertions & prepartions should be for this purpose –


The middle and eastern states with the [inserted: strike-out] force that will remain will be equal to the protection of themselves – then battalions must be completed and every preparation <?> on [inserted: in the course of the Winter] with the utmost vigor for the Siege of New-York in the Spring.


The french [struck: will <?>] have an apparatus of artillery equal to the siege of Charlestown, [struck: and] [inserted: or] any other fortified places [inserted: to the Southward] but if they should [struck: not] [inserted: be any deficency] we must [strike-out] [inserted: give] all the assistance [inserted: in our power] [strike-out] that we [struck: can – But] I suppose that the Siege of Charlestown ought not to be the [6] first object, for probably there will be considerable bodies of troops in Georgia & [struck: South] North Carolina – [inserted:  what] a sudden & judicious landing in South Carolina would separate [struck: those <?>] and render the conquest of them much less difficult than if they were united – This however is a matter of detail that can be much better setled after the General Manoeuvers shall be decided upon –


I presume transports and a very [struck: cons] large quantity of salt provisions [inserted: for the troops who should be sent in addition to the French] might be forward under various pretences to the eastward & [strike-out] the prizes lately brought in them, [struck: for the troops, who shall go in addition to the french troops] [inserted: army –] should an expedition to the southward be undertaken, [struck: it cannot be entr] it ought to be entrusted to as few persons as possible [strike-out] the design must be mastr’d with the utmost art, to prevent the enemy sending any additional force there which would [struck: probably] [inserted: might] render [struck: the expedition] [inserted: [struck: <?>] the enterprize] totally abortive –


If we cannot acquire [7] a naval superiority [inserted: in those seas] I cannot see what enterprize we can undertake – [inserted: with any great prospect of success] to march troops to Canada, [struck: would] be [inserted: exclusive of the lateness of the season] an arduous task, [struck: but and probable too late [inserted: & possibly]] and [inserted: [struck: might] would probably] produce consequences that might [struck:  render abortive][inserted: <?>] any designs on New York in the Spring if we [inserted: should] attempt to march the french troops [struck: with others] to the southward the Enemy would have an opportunity to reinforce [inserted: their [struck: troops] army] long before our [strike-out]  [inserted: force] could arrive there, but [struck: even] this expedient tedious expensive [struck: and] arduous [struck: as it] and [strike-out] <?> [inserted: even compar’d with a <?> transportation [strike-out]] as it would be, must be adopted in preference to permitting the Enemy to [strike-out] [inserted: <?>] their conquests, or to return those they have made.


These sentiments are with proper deference submitted by your Excelency’s


Most obedient
Humble Sevt
H Knox


His Exclency Genl Washington


An opinion
deliverd His Excly
Genl Washington
9th Septr 1780 –