Our Collection

At the Institute’s core is the Gilder Lehrman Collection, one of the great archives in American history. More than 70,000 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 Henry Jackson

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 #: GLC02437.00617 Author/Creator: Knox, Henry (1750-1806) Place Written: New Jersey Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 21 June 1777 Pagination: 6 p. ; 32.2 x 19.8 cm.

Written at Camp Middlebrook. Replies to an earlier request from Colonel Jackson to enlist Hessians from a captured British ship: "I have not mentioned to the General your request to be permitted to enlist some of [the Hessians], it is so repugnant to the good of the service and your own reputation..." Discusses General William Howe's recent movements, and General John Sullivan's Continental force in Princeton, New Jersey. Is confused by the movements of the British. Assumed they intended to march to Philadelphia, but they instead fortified their position at Middlebrook, New Jersey. Notes that "Mr. Howe, instead of marching to Philadelphia found himself almost blockaded in an open flat County." If Howe had attempted to march on Philadelphia, Knox asserts he "should probably had twenty five thousand or thirty thousand militia upon his back..." Describes Howe's retreat, at one a.m. the morning of 19 June. While Howe plundered on his way, he was intermittently followed and attacked by American militia. Predicts Howe to attack on the North River (the Hudson). Reports that General John Burgoyne is active near Fort Ticonderoga, "and Genl Howe must make an attempt or push for a junction." Notes that the enemy, by all appearances, is leaving New Jersey.

[draft]
Camp Middlebrook 21st June 1777
My dear friend
I have received your two favors of the 2nd and 8th Instant I am pleas'd with the news of the Hessians being taken and wish the Brigs. mentioned by you may have taken the whole fleet. I have not mention'd to the General your request to be permitted to enlist some of them, it is so repugnant to the good of the service and your own reputation, that up the least reconsideration you will be very content that I did not - I had not time last post to answer the Letter from you which I then received. Genl. Howe on the 14th put his whole army in motion. he had for a long time past been collecting his force from Rhode Island New York Staten Island, etc - the Boats upon which he design'd to cross the Delaware as a Bridge were fixed on Waggons, besides which he had a large number that bottom boats, fix'd on Waggons to transport to the Delaware then Boats with the necessary apparatus, Waggons to carry the Baggage, and the Ammunition Waggons, etc [illegible] the number of his Waggons to perhaps of 1000 or 1100 a great incumbrance to an army not very [2] numerous as I have before written one position was exceeding good, and while we continued in it the pasage to the Delaware would be render'd extremely precarious and to attack Camp was an event much to be wish'd. however something was to be done. Genl. Sullivan was posted at Princeton with a force pretty respectable in itself, but not sufficient to stop Genl Howes army, and he might by a forc'd march push a column between Princeton and us and cut of Genl. Sullivans communication at least, but our intelligence being pretty good the Genl. directed Genl. Sullivan to take post about 4 miles from Princeton in such a manner that the surrounding him would be impracticable. We also had a party at milstones as a cover for the Communication to Princeton. This was a dangerous post from its contiguity the enemy that render'd less so by the extreme vigilance which was recommended and which the officer commanding punctually obey'd. [Matters] were thus situated on the morn'g of the 14th when we discern'd that the party at milstone was attack'd, Support was immediately sent to cover the retreat of the party, when it was discern'd to be the enemys main body as the small body of observation posted there were oblig'd to retreat "pretty quick" - The enemy took possession our whoe army was immediately order'd [3] under arms ready to be put in motion but the Conduct of the enemy reder'd it unnecessary - for instead of immediately pushing for the Delaware distant above 25 miles or attacking Genl. Sullivan, the sat down on the Ground and instantly began to fortify in a very strong position. but it was not till the next day that we discover'd their works. Their conduct was perplexing. It was unaccountable that people who the day before gave in very gasconading terms that they would be in Philadelphia in six days, should stop short when they had done only 9 miles. Tho our intelligence was pretty good with respect to their desires Yet it was too imperfect with respect to their [illegible] to warrant an attack on troops so well [illegible] and posted as they were - we also in the course of a day or two discovered that they had not mov'd with any baggage even tents and the most necessary, but had come out with an intention of drawing us into the plain had left their immense number of Waggens behind them. but even in this kind of ostentatious challenge they ommitted not one precaution for their own safety - they had Brunswick and the Rariton River on this night secru'd by 8 or 10 [Strong] Redoubts - at Brunswick the rariton bends [4] and [illegible] a little way north and then turns [nearly] West - this they had in their [illegible] securd by strong re doubts at Middlebush - their left was securd by the river milstone which emptys itself into the rariton near bound Brook - from there right to left was about 8 miles -
In this situation they continued until early in the morning of the 19th continually at work in throwing up Redoubts - We had a large Body of Rifle men under Colonel Morgan perpetually making inroads upon them, attacking their pickets killing their light horse and left them in such a manner asisted by the militia that Mr. Howe instead of Marching to Philadelphia found himself almost blockaded in an open flat Country. Nothing could exceed the spirit shown upon this occasion by the much injured people of the Jersies, - not an atom of the lethargic spirit that possessed them last winter. all fire all [rejoice]
The militia of Pennsylvania likewise turn'd out universally so that had Sir William put this attempt into execution, we should probably had twenty five thousand or thirty thousand militia upon his back besides the most [respectable] body of Continental troops that ever were in America
Those things being fully represented to Genl [5] Howe he thought it proper to take himself and light army back to Brunswick again, and accordingly March about one oClock on the morn'g of the 19th without Beat of Drums or sound of fife - when his army had gotten beyond the reach of pursuit they began to [illegible] plunder & [illegible] all before them, the desolation they committed was horr'd and [serv'd] to show the malice which marks their conduct - The militia, light horse, and Rifle men exhibited the greatest marks of Valour frequently take'g prisoners within two hundred yards of their encampment - Their loss must at least be one hundred kill'd wound'd and taken prisoners among whom were two Lieuts. Of Grenadier of the 5th and a cornet of Light Horses and a number kill'd, 2 Lieuts taken - This little march of Genl Howes fully proves, that no people or Country can be permanently conquer'd, were the Inhabitants are unanimous in opposition - he is now at Brunswick Piscataway, [Bonum] Town Amboy being the posts he formerly occupied - what his next manoever may be I cant say but we suppose the north [6] River, There I believe he will be also disgrac'd. The motive of belief that the north River will be the scene of his operations is that intelligence is receiv'd that Mr Burgoyne is about crossing the lakes to Ticonderoga and Genl Howe must make an attempt to push for a junction.
The enemy from all appearances and advises are upon the eve of evacuating the Jersies - times are much alter'd for them from Last fall - the people are unanimous in opposing them, just now four thousand march'd off to Harass the enemy, as many more will go down towards Brunswick this afternoon if any thing turns up between this time and the post going I will inform you
I am DearHarry yours
HKnox
I wish you to look out for some other Privateer in which I may put about £150 or £200, [illegible]

Order a CopyCitation Guidelines for Online Resources