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Knox, Henry (1750-1806) to William Knox

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02437.00451 Author/Creator: Knox, Henry (1750-1806) Place Written: New York, New York Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 23 September 1776 Pagination: 4 p. : address : docket ; 32.6 x 20.4 cm.

Discusses corresponding with his brother. Describes the artillery department in the Continental Army as one of the busiest, and the reason he cannot write as frequently as would prefer to. Gives his analysis and opinions of recent events, commenting on British activities and George Washington's leadership, the poor quality of officers the Continental Army, the failures of the Continental Congress, and the needs of the army. Believes that the Battle of Long Island was their one chance to win New York. Comments on the morale-boosting effects of the small victory at the Battle of Harlem Heights. Gives instructions to pay Major John Crane and a message for Henry Jackson. Written at Harlem Heights in New York (16 September 1776.)

Heights of Harlem 8 miles from NYork
Septr 23 1776
[struck: Dear Sir]
Dear Brother
It is some considerable time since I had the pleasure of having a letter from you owing I suppose to the post office being remov'd from NYork - It is now to be established to come to Camp therefore I shall hope for a letter from you without the omission of one post. You with our other friends at Boston are anxious for our situation and wish to know it exactly - It is my lot & it has been so invariably since I have been in the army to be in an exceeding buisy department, this I mention not by way of dislike but as an excuse for any seeming negligence or remissness in writing to you - had I time I should take vast pleasure in keeping an exact journal of occurrences of this Campaign which I [struck: take] [inserted: suppose] will be a buisy tho perhaps not a long one, and of [loaning] Copies of it to my friends, - This is not the case, there are many events which turn up in the course of a day or week which might be interesting to persons at a distance who can with coolness separate and compare [struck: matters] [inserted: one] matter with another, which to us who are immers'd in the very depth of buisy scenes pass unnotic'd or only notic'd to be remember'd in some distant day - The General landing features or outlines of what has already happen'd has almost ever since I have been this way, been fully impressed on my mind. Islands separated from the main by navigable waters [2] waters are not to be defended by a people without a navy against a nation who can send a powerful fleet to interrupt the communication. We had one chance to defend New York [struck: and] I dont know whether to call it a whole chance, I think I cannot with propriety it was only part of a chance, which was by being [inserted: completely] victorious on Long Island - even had this event taken place they could have burnt the Town by their Shipping. this is indisputable in my opinion, - They in their first attack on Long Island beat ny by our own fault in not guarding the passes, and made our lodgements so near our works, that they were not oblig'd to leave more than five thousand men to guard them - This would have left 15,000 men at least to have made a quest up the north River and landed in our rear and fortified - had they have taken this measure which in good policy they ought to have done, they might at one stroke have reduc'd the whole army to the necessity [strikeout] of surrendering prisoners without being able to fight in the least - But in this & several other capital matters they have not acted the great Warriors - inded I see nothing of the vast about them either in their designs or execution - But Good God - if they are little thou knowest full well we are much less, and that nothing less than the infatuation of the enemy and the [inserted: almost] immediate interposition of thy providence has sav'd this rabble army - the General [struck: good man] is as worthy a man as breathes, but he can not do every thing nor be every where - he wants good assistance, - There is a radical evil in our army - the lack of officers - we ought to have men of merit in the most extensive and [3] unlimited sense of the word - Insted of which the bulk of the officers of our army are a parcel of ignorant stupid men who might make tolerable soldiers but bad officers - and until the congress forms an establishment to induce men [struck: to leave their] proper for the purpose to leave their pecuniary employments and enter into the service, it is ten to one they will be beat till they are heartily tird of it - We ought to have [inserted: military] Accadamis, in which the whole Theory of the art of war shall be taught and every other encouragement possible given to draw persons in to the army that may give a lustre to [strikeout] our arms - [strikeout] as the army now stands it is only a Receptacle for raggamuffins - you will observe I am chagrin'd not more so than at any other time since I've been in the army - but many late affairs to which I've been an eye witness has so totally sickened me that unless some very different mode of conduct is observ'd in the formation of the new Army - I shall not think myself oblig'd by either the Laws of God or nature to risque my reputation in so cobweb a foundation - The affair of last monday has some good consequences towards raising the people's spirits - they find [strikeout] that if they stick to these mighty men they will run as fast as other people - our people pursue'd them nearly two miles - about 1500 of our people engag'd of the enemy about the same number. Viz - the 2d Battalion light infantry the Highlands or 42d [Viz] Battalion of Grenadiers, and some Hessians [4] The Grounds on which we now [strikeout] are strong. I think we shall defend them - if we don't I hope god will punish us both in this world and the world to come if the fault is ours - pay Mrs Crane wife to Major Crane 30 Dollars, and inform her that the Major is in a fair way to do well, he is now over the River in a good house in the English neighborhood - he is in high esteem in the army, and the loss of his services much regretted by me -
I shall not have the pleasure of writing to my much love'd friend Harry Jackson by this post - show him this letter and tell him that as the posts are now establish'd I shall write him often - The scoundrel Hessians took my baggage each with a great part of my necessary matters which I find very difficult to replace at present - pay Levy Dennits wife 4 Dollars - I am your very affectionate Brother HKnox

Letter from Coll.o Knox
Septembr. 23. 1776.
[address leaf]
Nyork 23 Sepr
Stanf.d Sept 23d [struck: Way] 3 8
M.r William Knox

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