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Letter to Henry Knox, February 16, 1781

TRANSCRIPT GLC 2437.52.149

George Washington.  Letter copy:  Head Quarters, to Henry Knox, 1781 February 16.  2 p.


To Brigadier General Knox

Commander of Artillery.             

Head Qrs Feb 16 1781





In the Conference between the Count De Rochambeau and myself, it was agreed, that if by the aid of our Allies, we can have a Naval Superiority through the next Campaign, and an army of thirty thousand men (or double the force of the enemy and its dependencies) early enough in the season to operate in the quarter, we ought to prefer it to evry other object, as the most important and decisive, and applications have been made to the Court of France in this Spirit which it is to be hoped will produce the desired effect.


It is therefore incumbent upon us to make evry necessary preparation on our part for the seige of New York. as far as our funds and means render practicable Applications have been also made to the Court of France for a large supply of powder, arms, heavy cannon, and several other essential articles in your Department But as we cannot ascertain the extent of the success these applications will meet with, and as they only go to such articles as are less within the compass of our own internal means, we ought not to neglect any exertion in our power for procuring within ourselves those things of which we shall stand in need.


I give you this Communication of what is in prospect, that you may take your measures accordingly by making Such estimates and demands, and other arrangments, as [2] may appear to you best calculated to produce what we want.  And you may rely upon all the Support it will be in my power to give


In your calculations, you will estimate the force on our side at about twenty thousand men, the remainder with a proper seige and field apparatus are to be supposed to be furnished by our allies You are well acquainted with New York and its defences, and you can therefore judge of the means requisite for its reduction by a seige  The General idea of the plan of operations is this (if we are able to procure the force we count upon) to make two attacks, one against the works on York Island, and the other against the works of Brooklyn on Long Island the latter will probably be conducted by our Allies ulterior operations must depend on circumstances


If we should find ourselves unable to undertake this more capital expedition, and if we have means equal to it we shall attempt a Secondary object. the reduction of Charles Town Savannah. Penobscot We may sucessively come into contemplation Your dispositions will have reference to these different objects though indeed a preparation for the principal one will substantially comprehend evry lesser


These instructions would have been earlier given to you, but for the commotions in the army, which suspended my attentions

Given at Head Quarters
February 16 1781

(Signed)  Go Washington


[inserted in left margin of first page - different hand:  (Recd from Lt Henry Knox Thatcher Augt 9 1855 by Mail)]