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Knox, Henry (1750-1806) to John Adams

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02437.00454 Author/Creator: Knox, Henry (1750-1806) Place Written: New York, New York Type: Manuscript letter Date: 25 September 1776 Pagination: 3 p. ; 25 x 20 cm.

Later copy. Responds to a request from Adams' (see GLC02437.00) and comments on the character and abilities of several officers, although he directs Adams to a list of officers rather than composing one himself. Discusses the difficulties of inducing good men to serve. Suggest the establishment of military academies. Discusses the problems of the Continental Army with reference to the activities in New York. Praises Gerge Washington and Nathanael Greene. Believes the Battle of Long Island was their one chance to win in New York. Discusses the fortification of Harlem Heights.

To John Adams
Heights of Harlem Septr 25 1776
Dear Sir
Through the hurry and confusion of one retreat after another I have omitted to answer your last favour. You are pleas'd to desire a list of Officers from Massachusetts Bay noting such as bid fair to rise superior to the commonality. I have endeavor'd to procure the whole list but in vain. The General sometime since order'd a list to be given in of the Officers of every Regiment in order to go to the War Office at Philadelphia. This must be more correct than any other that can be procur'd. The character of Major Brooks is that of a sensible, brave, good Officer, a man of reading and who will if God spares his life be an ornament to his Country. Lt Colo Shepherd is brave and clever but his views of things is not so extensive or his education equal to the other. Major Austin's genius is equal to any science, but I am not so certain that his application is. If Austin could by any ways or means have infus'd into him certain principles of inflexible honor and sentiment, and a proportion of judgement [sic] with his genius, I think he would be one of the first characters coming on the stage. This in my opinion would be essential for a Lt Colo Artillery. If another Battaltion of Artillery shall be rais'd who are to be the Field Officers? This, Sir, will be difficult to answer without the Congress or the General know persons suitable for these offices. I congress I do not At least not in the army, and there are so few induce [2] ments, excepting a love to their country which seems to go a precious little way that I know not how we shall get them. There is but one Lt Colo to the present Battalion and but one Major although the Congress allow two of each. The Lt Colo is David Mason, who is but so so. the Major is an exceedingly fine spirited fellow (Crane) and were his education equal to his station, he must cut an excellent figure. He was wounded some time ago in the foot so that he is disabled for the campaign. Mason has been sick for some time. I am alone and have been so far a long time. The petty business of paying the Regiment, which till now has been I think impos'd upon me, together with the arrangement and disposal of all the Cannon & Stores and discipline of the Regiment has so fully employed me that I have scarcely had time to take the common refreshment of nature. This I mean not by way of complaint, for I rejoice exceedingly that I have been in the least assisting my injur'd and insulted country.
I am sorry to observe the same popular plan for raising a new army still continuing, which will most assuredly give the continent the same unmeaning ----- for officers with which she has been curs'd. If the Congress do not administer a radical cure they will in the end repent it. Military Academies must be instituted at any expence. We are fighting against a people well acquainted with the theory & practice of war. Brave by discipline & habit, furnished with every implement of war necessary for any enterprise. What do we oppose to them? We oppose a ----- Tho' the are brave and furnish'd with all these matters. Yet from some causes they discover very little of the great [3] or vast in their designs or executions. Otherways this army would have been annihilated. Had they at their head our amiable and worthy General I think poor America would have ere now felt severely. We had one chance and only one for the defence of New York and that they completely put into our hands and which some of our _______ most vilely miss'd improving. The ignorance of the grounds and not occupying the passes on that Island sufficiently, has been the sole and only cause of our subsequent retreats, and had General Greene been fit for duty I flatter myself matters would have worn a very different appearance at present. These and other matters may form some very pertinent inquiries in some future day. The enemy have now suffer'd us quietly to forify heights which the[y] cannot storm or take. When the grounds on the other side [of] King's Bridge and about Morrisana shall be sufficiently fortified I think they will not be able to dispossess us of the places where we are now are. This will be a negative advantage, and I hope some lapse in their conduct will give some very capital and positive advantages. I am ashamed of this letter; it being written amid the hurry, interruption, and confusion of a tent.
I am, Dear Sir, with the greatest
Affection & Respect Your Most
Obedt Hble Servant
Henry Knox.

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