Our Collection

At the Institute’s core is the Gilder Lehrman Collection, one of the great archives in American history. More than 75,000 items cover five hundred years of American history, from Columbus’s 1493 letter describing the New World to soldiers’ letters from World War II and Vietnam. Explore primary sources, visit exhibitions in person or online, or bring your class on a field trip.

Knox, Henry (1750-1806) to William Knox

High-resolution images are available to schools and libraries via subscription to American History, 1493-1943. Check to see if your school or library already has a subscription. Or click here for more information. You may also order a pdf of the image from us here.

Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02437.00478 Author/Creator: Knox, Henry (1750-1806) Place Written: White Plains, New York Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 1 November 1776 Pagination: 2 p. : address : docket ; 31.4 x 19.4 cm.

Summary of Content: Mentions problems with the post. Explains why the Continental Army had retreated in the Battle of White Plains (28 October 1776). Notes that military intelligence gathered from British prisoners and deserters suggests the British are planning to attempt a decisive attack. The Continental Army will try to avoid any general battle in which they lack "most advantageous terms."

Full Transcript: Near White Plains 37 Miles from New York
Novr 1 1776
Dear Brother
There is what they call a flying post, but it [struck: flys] flies so fast I can never catch it. ...I lodg'd some days ago in the hands of the post master a Letter to my friend Harry giving the reasons of our retiring to the White plains - last monday the enemy with nearly their whole force advanced upon the Hills above us, and soon after ten oClock in the morning with a large pact of their army began a most ferocious attack on a Hill on our right where we had about 1000 posted under Genl McDougal which they carried with considerable Loss - our Loss was not very considerable Our men had no works & were not timely reinforcd [illegible] to the distance they were from the main body, the enemy having possession of this Hill obligd us to abandon some slight lines thrown up on White plains, this we did this morning & retir'd to some Hills about ½ mile in the rear of the plain. - The enemy are determind on something decisive & we are determind to risque a General Battle only on the most advantageous terms - we are manoevrg In which I think [2] they are some what our superiors - we have had intelligence from Deserters & prisoners of which we have considerable numbers that they intended to make a General attack this morning however it is now nine oClock & we hear nothing of it only a little Cannonading - give my Love to Harry - I recd your Letters from Octr 10 to 16 - for which I'm Obligd to you - my duty prevents my answering them - I wish you & Harry to write by the return of Mr Crafts who is a private post pay him well for this & it will be an Inducement for him to call upon you
Adieu my dear brother
[address leaf]
Mr William Knox
the State House
Mr Crafts
Letter from Mr H Knox
1.st November 1776.
See More

People: Knox, Henry, 1750-1806
Knox, William, 1756-1795

Historical Era: American Revolution, 1763-1783

Subjects: Prisoner of WarBattle of White PlainsRevolutionary WarRevolutionary War GeneralMilitary HistoryPost OfficeContinental ArmyBattleGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyDesertion

Sub Era: The War for Independence

Order a Copy Citation Guidelines for Online Resources