Knox, Henry (1750-1806) to Lucy Knox
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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02437.00514 Author/Creator: Knox, Henry (1750-1806) Place Written: Morristown, New Jersey Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 7 January 1777 Pagination: 8 p. : docket ; 26.2 x 21.7 cm. Order a Copy
Asks if she has received his previous letter (GLC02437.00511). Details the fighting from 2 January onward. Discusses the American retreat from Trenton, for which the artillery provided cover, Washington's decision to next attack Princeton where "about 1200 men" were stationed by the British, and the late night march to Princeton. Admits "we did not take them by surprise as at Trenton," because the British soldiers were already marching when the Continentals encountered them, whereas in Trenton they had been totally out of order. But still thinks the enemy "were as much asstonish'd as if An Army had drop'd perpendicularly upon them," because the British thought the Americans were still "coop'd up in Trenton." Describes the initial American victory, largely involving bayonets, in which the British lost "nearly 800" men. Lists the American officers lost in the fight. The Americans then decide to pull out of Princeton to stay ahead of the main British forces which are advancing. Washington had hoped to move on to New Brunswick and strike again, but the men were too tired. If they had had 1,000 fresh men they could have moved on to New Brunswick and "struck one of the most Brilliant strokes in all History." Knox writes that instead the Americans would have to settle for the fact that they drove the British away from Philadelphia and almost out of West Jersey. Mentions a few other minor skirmishes, and feels the Americans are doing well. Paraphrasing Shakespeare's Julius Caesar he says "There is a tide in the affairs of men which if taken at the ford leads on to victory." Thanks God for what he sees as a positive turning of the tide and hopes this same feeling "will so prevail on the hearts of the people as to induce them to be a people chosen of Heaven...never to dispair of the Commonwealth." Feels that New England and her "hardy sons" have a key role to play in this struggle. Despite his happiness Knox knows that "the State of War is uncertain. Victorious to day defeated tomorrow." States that the Americans shall try "to make another stroke or two upon them." Closes by expressing his love for her and his desire to see her.
Morris Town Jany. 7. 1777 -
My dearest Love
I wrote to you from Trenton by a Mr Furnass which I hope you have received. I then informed you that we soon expected another tustle; I was not out in my conjecture, Mr Furnass had not been gone more than two hours before we had intelligence that the enemy were advancing with considerable Force from Princeton 12 miles distant we immediately made a disposition for a Battle which as the enemy did not come on immediately we afterwards varied in order to prevent their coming in on our rear - about 3 oClock on the 2d of Jany. which was the same day on which Mr Furnass went away & the same day of which I'm writing - [struck: the] [inserted: A] Column of the Enemy attack'd a party of ours which was stationd about [struck: two] [inserted: one] mile above Trenton, [struck: their] [inserted: Our] party was small & did not make much resistance, the Enemy who were Hessians enter'd the Town Pellmell pretty much in the same manner  that we had driven the Hessians a few days before - [inserted: nearly] on the other side of Trenton partly in the Town runs a Creek which in most places is not Fordable & over which thro Trenton is a Bridge [struck: which connects the] the Grounds on the other side are much [struck: more] higher than on this and may be said to command Trenton completely - here it was our army drew up with 30 or 40 pieces of Artillery in front - the Enemy [struck: pursued] [inserted: push'd] our small party thro' the Town with Vigor tho not with much loss, their retreat over the Bridge was throroughly secur'd by the Artillery, after they had retir'd over the Bridge the enemy advanc'd within reach of our Cannon who saluted them with great vociferation and some execution, this Continued till dark when of course it ceas'd except a few shells we now & then chuck'd into Town to prevent their enjoying the new quarters securely - as I before mentiond the Creek was in our front - our left on the Delaware, our right in a Wood pariarell [sic] to the Creek - the situation was strong to be sure but hazardous on this account that had our right wing been defeated the defeat of the left would almost [inserted: have] been an inevitable consequence, & the whole thrown into confusion or push'd into the Delaware as it was impassable by Boats  from these Considerations the General thought it was best to attack Princeton 12 miles in the rear of the enemys Grandarmy and where they had the 17th 40th & 55th Regts with a number of draughts altogether perhaps about 1200 men - accordingly about one oClock at night we began to march & make this most extra manoevre - our Troops march'd with great silence & order & arriv'd near Princeton a little after day Break - we did not suprize them as at Trenton, for they were on their march down to Trenton on a road about a quarter of a mile distant from the one in which we were - You may judge of their suprize when they discoverd such large Columns marching up, they could not possibly suppose it was our army for that they took for granted was coop'd up near Trenton, they could not possibly suppose it was their own army returning by a back road - in short I believe they were as much astonish'd as if our Army had drop'd perpendicularly upon them - however they had not much time for consideration we push'd a party to attack them [struck: but some] this attack they repuls'd with great spirit & advanc'd upon another column just then Coming  out of a Wood which they likewise put in some disorder but fresh troops coming up and the Artillery beginning to play they were after a smart resistance totally put to the rout - the 4th Regt us'd their Bayonets with too much severity upon a party they put to flight but they now paid for it in proportion - very few escaping - [struck: 60] near 60 were kill'd on the spot - besides the wounded. - we have taken between three & four hundred prisoners all British troops - they must have lost in this affair nearly 800 kill'd wounded & taken prisoners - we lost some Gallant officers - Briga General Mercer was wounded & supposd to have been kill'd he had three separate stabs with a Bayonet a Lt Colo Fleming was killd & a Capt Neil of the Artillery an Exceedng fine [struck: man] [inserted: officer] Mercer will get better - the enemy took his parole after we left princeton - We took all their Cannon which consisted of two brass six pounders a Considerable quantity of military stores blankets guns &c - they lost among a number of other officers a Capt Leslie - son to the Earl of Leven & Nephew to Genl Leslie him we brought off & buried with the honors of War - after we had  had been about two hours at Princeton - word was brought that the enemy were advancing from Trenton - this they did as we have since been inform'd in amost informal sweat, running puffing & blowing & [inserted: swearing] at being so out witted - as we had other objects in view to risk beating up their quarters we pursued our march to Somerset Court house where there were about 1300 Quarterd as we had been informed - they however had now off & join'd the Army at Trenton - we at first intend'd to have made a forc'd march'd to Brunswick at which place was the baggage of their whole army & Genl Lee - but our men having been without either rest rum or provisions for two nights & days were unequal to the talk of marching 17 miles further - if we could have procur'd 1000 fresh men at Princton to have push'd for Brunswick we should have struck one of the most Brillant strokes in all history - however the advantages are very great already they have Collected the Whole Force and drawn themselves to one point to wit Brunswick  [strikeout] the enemy were within 19 miles of Philadelphia they are now 60 miles we have driven from almost the whole of West Jersie - the Panic is still kept up: we had a Battle two days ago with a party of ours & 60 Waldeckers who were all kill'd or taken, in Monmouth County in the lower part of the Jersies - another party of ours have routed the party of Tories there, kill'd and took two hundred prisoners - in short my Lucy America has a prospect of seeing this part of it entirely rid of her Foes - It is just our Interest [text loss] Genl Battle nor can I think under all circumstances it is the enemies - they have sent their Baggage to Staten Island from the Jersies & we are very well inform'd they are doing the same from New York - Heath will have orders to march there and endevr to storm it on that side, There is a tide in the affairs of men such if taken at the Flood lead on to Victr'y - For my part my Lucy I look up to Heaven & most devoutly thank the great Govenor  of the Universe for producing this turn in our affairs of America - & this sentiment I hope will so prevail on the Hearts of the people as to induce them to be a people chosen of Heaven, not to give way to dispair but at all times - & under all circumstances never to dispair of the Common wealth - much is to be done by New England, great exertions must be produced by her - Heaven seems to have given her hardy sons replete with Health & Fortitude [text loss] be equal to battle all the efforts of tyrany.
I wish something might or could be done with the enemy at Rhode Island - if God would so prosper our arms as to eject them out of American entirely - it would give Life & energy to the Formation of the new Army. I am not too Sanguine, I dont think that the Army of America is established firmly - the Fate of War is uncertain. Victorious to day defeated  tomorrow - we shall shortly endeavor to make [struck: a] another stroke or two upon them - I repeat it again that New England must exert herself to the Utmost for a new Campaign - and if she does much very much may be expected -
I most devoutly long for the happy day when War shall cease & restore me to my much lov'd Lucy, when I shall have the happiness of seeing you for a short time I cannot with certainty say but I hope it will be in the course of six weeks or two months - May god preserve you & [my] sweet Babe
Adieu my Love
Genl to Mrs K
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